The first tsunami waves arrived on Oahu, but there were no initial reports of damage. Now reports just coming in before we published this report. The good news is that the third wave has now arrived and still the water levels have not raised to levels that were predicted or expected. Hawaii news reporters have suggested that tsunami forecasters may have over predicted the danger.
Gerard Fryer, a scientist with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said waves may continue to come ashore for six or seven hours.
Tidal gauges recorded sea level changes at Makapuu, Hanalei and Haleiwa, Fryer said.
“The tsunami arrived about when we expected it should. It was a little smaller than we expected,” Fryer said.
Tsunami warning sirens sounded across Hawaii and people in inundation zones evacuated after a tsunami warning was issued for Hawaii in the wake of a 7.7-magnitude earthquake off British Columbia tonight.
State Civil Defense urged residents to move to higher ground if they are in a tsunami evacuation zone. The first waves were expected at 10:28 p.m., said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach.
Officials warn that there could be several waves and waves could still impact the islands hours after the initial wave.
The center is predicting wave heights of 3 to 6 feet in some locations. The biggest waves are expected in Hilo, Kahului, Haleiwa and Hanalei. Kahului could get 6-foot waves or surges, officials said.
“It now looks like we’ll be up over danger levels,” said Chip McCreary, the director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Danger level is considered about 3 feet about sea level.
McCreary said the waves will be smaller than the waves that hit Hawaii from last year’s Japan earthquake.
The entire north shore of all islands and windward side of Oahu could see some tsunami impact. McCreery said Kahului is their biggest worry.
“This thing is pointed right at us,” he said.
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Victor Sardina, geophysicist with the center, urged residents to listen to instructions from Hawaii Civil Defense. “We don’t want to chance it,” he said.
“Refer to the Tsunami Evacuation Maps in your phone book,” the latest state Civil Defense message said. “If you are in a tsunami evacuation zone YOU MUST EVACUATE. If you are not in a zone stay off of the road an away form the shoreline until the all clear is sounded.”
Access tsunami evacuation maps online at http://www.pdc.org/iweb/tsunami_zones.jsp
Gov. Neil Abercrombie issued a proclamation giving civil defense officials the authority to protect lives.
“I want to make sure everybody understands how serious this is. We’re getting reports of people trying drive to shore areas, endangering other people trying leave shore areas. Want make crystal clear to everybody to have all the authorities on all of the islands to take appropriate actions to control whatever needs to be done for civil defense purposes,” Abercrombie said.
Abercrombie said people should also stay off cell phones unless absolutely necessary.
John Cummings, spokesman for the city Department of Emergency Management, said residents along coastlines can also vertically evacuate if they are in a concrete- or steel-reinforced structure of six or more stories.
Cummings said residents should evacuate to the third floor or higher. He also said it’s unclear how severe the tsunami may be. “We could have a big wave or we could have six-inch wave. We just don’t know yet,” he said. “This is an unusual area for us to have a tsunami come from.”
He warned that all shorelines are expected to be affected by waves because of a “wraparound effect.” Meanwhile, police have begun to close roads, blocking entry to coastal areas.
Cummings said there are reports of “really bad” traffic in some areas, apparently as residents evacuate from shorelines. He said it appears people who need not evacuate are also getting on roadways.
“If they are in a tsunami evacuation zone, they should evacuate immediately,” said Shelly Kunishige, of Hawaii Civil Defense. Kunishige said sirens statewide are sounding to alert residents of the warning.
The Coast Guard is leading larger boats out of small boat harbors around the state to prevent major damage, Kunishige said.
Kunishige also urged residents who don’t need to evacuate to stay off roads and phone lines.
Civil Air Patrol aircraft are also flying over shorelines sounding sirens to supplement outdoor sirens, Kunishige said.
Victor Sardina, geophysicist with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, urged residents to listen to instructions from Hawaii Civil Defense.
“We don’t want to chance it,” he said.
He warned that all shorelines are expected to be affected by waves because of a “wraparound effect.”
Meanwhile, police have begun to close roads, blocking entry to coastal areas.
The warning came at about 7:15 p.m., two hours after the warning center reported that Hawaii was not in danger of a tsunami. The center said earlier only that some coastal areas of Hawaii could experience to sea-level changes and strong or unusual currents from the quake lasting up to several hours,” the center said in a bulletin.
Sea-level readings prompted the upgrade to a warning, officials said.
A tsunami is a series of long ocean waves that can flood coastal areas. The danger can continue for many hours after the initial wave arrives, the center said.
The quake in the Queen Charlotte Islands region occurred at 5:04 p.m. Hawaii time, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The epicenter was 126 miles south-southwest of Prince Rupert, B.C., and 452 miles northwest of Vancouver.
The National Weather Service issued a warning for coastal areas of British Columbia, southern Alaska, Northern California, Oregon and Washington state. It says the warning area includes Craig and Sitka, Alaska.
A small tsunami was recorded on a deep-ocean pressure sensor, according to the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska. The predicted amplitude of the waves in south central Alaska was less than a foot.
The USGS says the 7.7-magnitude quake was followed by 5.8 and 5.1-magnitude aftershocks.
The quake could be among the largest ever recorded in the Pacific Northwest, said John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismological Network at the University of Washington. It was followed by a magnitude-5.8 aftershock, and may also be linked to a smaller quake in Montana, he said.
More aftershocks could follow.
Vidale said the quake was not on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the giant offshore fault that scientists say will one day unleash a megaquake and tsunami similar to the double-punch that hit Japan in 2011.
But Saturday’s quake was of the type that can warp the seafloor, triggering a tsunami. “We don’t know yet how wide an area it broke,” Vidale said. The size of the seafloor displacement determines the size of the tsunami.