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Andy Katz | Correspondent | January 15, 2018

How Hawaii and UCSB handled Saturday's missile scare

  Hawaii's Saturday began with a shock.

Hawaii coach Eran Ganot and his wife Barbea huddled, prayed and tried not to alarm their six-year old daughter Zeza, who was quietly reading in their bedroom.

It was 8:07 a.m. in Hawaii Saturday morning and for a few minutes, they like thousands or hundreds of thousands of other Hawaiian residents and tourists, thought their lives could be over in minutes.

All because of an errant text that said, “Emergency Alert. BALLISTIC MISSLE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.’’

“We were just getting organized for the day,’’ said Ganot. “We had shoot-around at 2:45 p.m. for our game against Santa Barbara. It was a normal Saturday. We weren’t watching TV. And then the phones starting going off with the emergency alert.

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“It was one of those things I will never forget,’’ said Ganot. “First, we were trying to make sense of it. We didn’t know. We looked out the window. We didn’t see anything. We looked on Twitter and there was nothing. But we didn’t know. Today, you normally get information right away. But we didn’t. For 38 minutes.

“We were just trying to think good thoughts,’’ he said. “We live in a high rise. There wasn’t chaos in our hallway. But it was for 38 minutes.’’

At 8:20 a.m., Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (EMA) tweeted there was no missile threat. Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) also tweeted in all caps that it was a false alarm. Finally, at 8:45 a.m., Hawaii’s EMA sent out the alert to all mobile devices saying that it was a false alarm.

Ultimately, it was confirmed that an employee had mistakenly pushed the wrong button.

While Ganot was huddled in his apartment, UCSB coach Joe Pasternack and his team was ushered into the basement of the Courtyard Marriott.

“There was major panic,’’ said Pasternack.

The whole scene was surreal, apparently, like out of a disaster movie. No one knowing exactly what to do.

“You know when someone says, it could be the most interesting day of your life? Well, this was,’’ Ganot said. “It was one of those things I will never forget.’’

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Ganot said the 30 minutes after the all clear was just as bizarre. One minute they were all praying and wondering if this was the end and the next they were supposed to go on about their day.

Which they did.

He said the players were all trying to make sense of what occurred when they gathered for the practice.

“We go from that to an intense game that night in the arena,’’ said Ganot. “Both teams gave maximum effort. We had a great crowd.’’

Hawaii won 77-76 behind Gibson Johnson’s 18 points and 8 of 9 shooting. The Rainbow Warriors are now 12-5 overall, 3-1 in the Big West, while UCSB dropped to 12-5 overall, 1-2 in the conference.

Pasternack, in his first year as head coach, then said the Gauchos had to make their way back Sunday night on a five-hour detour from LAX to Santa Barbara to avoid roads damaged by the mudslides.

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