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Tsunami ambles ashore

A large earthquake off British Columbia sparks a statewide warning and evacuations

By Mary Vorsino

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:14 a.m. HST, Oct 28, 2012


Small tsunami waves lapped at island shores Saturday after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake off British Columbia triggered a statewide tsunami warning and massive evacuations along vulnerable coastlines.

By 11:17 p.m., four waves had hit Hawaii, the largest at 5 feet from peak to trough at Kahului, Maui, said Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach. That means it was 2 1/2 feet above the ambient sea level.

The waves were about 12 minutes apart, he said.

Scientists at the center remained cautious and declined to issue an all-clear before midnight, but Fryer said the waves were smaller than expected.

"It seems like the forecast was an overprediction," he told reporters.

The first tsunami waves arrived on Oahu around 10:30 p.m., but there were no initial reports of damage.

Fryer said waves could 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. "I don't think we're going to have anything really large. It's beginning to look like the evacuation may not have been necessary."

Tsunami warning sirens began blaring around 7:40 p.m. and people in inundation zones were urged to evacuate immediately.

CANADA QUAKE

>> A magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck at about 5:04 p.m. Saturday Hawaii time.
>> The epicenter was centered 452 miles northwest of Vancouver at a depth of about 3 miles.
>> The temblor was followed by a 5.8-magnitude aftershock. Several other aftershocks were reported.
>> The quake was the strongest in Canada since 1970 when a 7.4-magnitude quake struck south of the Haida Gwaii.
>> Canada’s largest quake since 1700 was an 8.1-magnitude quake on Aug. 22, 1949, off the coast of British Columbia.

Source: Associated Press

In Waikiki, hotels began so-called "vertical evacuation," moving guests to higher floors, shortly after the warning was issued. And across the state, "tsunami refuge centers" were opened to give residents a safe place to park as they waited out the danger.

Some of those centers filled quickly.

Dozens of people sought safe haven at Makakilo Community Park as they anxiously awaited news. Many came with blankets, portable radios, pets and coolers full of drinks to pass the time. The park took on the air of a neighborhood block party — but with people keenly tuned to their radios, listening for the latest developments.

Kapolei resident Harmony Valoroso, 33, was at the park with 13 other family members, sitting around a tent they erected to wait out the tidal surge.

Before leaving their home, they grabbed important papers and the urn containing the ashes of Harmony's late father, Steven Valoroso Sr.

"That's the first thing I grabbed," said Pauline Valoroso, Steven Valoroso's widow.

As former Makaha residents, the Valorosos are no strangers to evacuations and started gathering their belongings immediately after hearing the emergency sirens.

"We don't take this lightly," Harmony Valoroso said. "Mother Nature can twist any time."

The tsunami 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 sea-level changes and strong or unusual currents from the quake lasting up to several hours.

Sea-level readings prompted the upgrade to a warning, officials said.

The quake in the Haida Gwaii or 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 USGS said the 7.7-magnitude quake in Canada was followed by 5.8- and 5.1-magnitude aftershocks. In Canada, there were no reports of major damage. Residents in parts of British Columbia were evacuated but the province appeared to escape the quake largely unscathed.

This is the first time Hawaii has seen a tsunami warning triggered by an earthquake off Canada.

"It's rare," said Victor Sardina, geophysicist with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

There have been five earthquakes off the Queen Charlotte Islands since 1929, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The most recent, a magnitude 6.6, was in 2009.

As people sought higher ground Saturday night, traffic backed up in many parts of the island.

There were also reports of sirens in some areas not working.

Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi said tsunami sirens in East Hawaii island, including the Keaukaha, Waiakea and portions of Puna, initially failed to work in a "glitch," but police technicians were summoned, Kenoi said.

The sirens were sounded successfully in the East Hawaii island area at about 9:10 p.m.

To ensure residents were aware of the danger, Civil Air Patrol aircraft flew over shorelines to supplement sirens and emergency responders blared warnings from their vehicles.

Meanwhile, to prepare for the waves, the Coast Guard led larger boats out of small boat harbors to prevent major damage.

At 10 p.m., police closed roads in tsunami inundation zones.

As scores of Ewa Beach residents got caught in the traffic jam on Fort Weaver Road trying to leave the community, about 30 families had gathered in the parking lot of Asing Community Park, a designated evacuation site.

As of 11 p.m., however, the community center had not yet been opened.

Traffic along Farrington Highway trying to head into Waianae was diverted by police at Ko Olina Resort.

In Waikiki, officials moved quickly to vertically evacuate visitors and reported no major problems.

"Even with the shorter notice, the visitor industry is prepared," said Mike McCartney President and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority.

"Every hotel has an evacuation plan. Everybody is ready," he said.

At Buzz's Original Steakhouse just mauka of Kailua Beach Park, a handful of patrons were finishing their dinner just after 9 p.m. Manager Mani Schneider said about 15 guests left earlier, without eating, when they heard news of the tsunami warning.

Schneider said seven employees were allowed to go home early.

Cars trickled out of the beachfront community of Lanikai, but there was no sense of panic. Some residents were walking or bicycling on Mokulua and Aalapapa drives.

In Hawaii Kai around 9 p.m., cars and trucks were lined up five deep at the pumps at a Chevron gas station in the tsunami inundation zone.

Rich Reilly was trying to fill up his pickup truck as fast as possible so he could get to his beach lot house in Waimanalo to grab belongings and important papers.

"I'm a sailor, so I respect Mother Nature — and I challenge her as a sailor — but I don't want to challenge her this time," said the 47-year-old Reilly, a general contractor. "I totally respect this."

Lanikai resident Christine Crosby lives on high ground but has friends at sea level, and she wanted to get her gas so she could get home and make sure they were safe.

Hawaii has had tsunami threats that resulted in nothing, but that didn't matter to her.

"I grew up here and I have neighbors who survived two tsunamis and they said to not go near the ocean," said Crosby, 45. "I take it pretty seriously."

———

Star-Advertiser reporters Gordon Pang, Rosemarie Bernardo, Gary Chun, Ann Miller, Rob Perez, Allison Schaefers, Kevin Dayton, Andy Yamaguchi and Gary T. Kubota contributed to this report.






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localguy wrote:
Another good exercise for Tsunami warning and protection of residents. Mahalo to everyone who heeded evacuation measures and left low lying areas. After watching the damage from the Japan Tsunami, never take the chance a wave can't get you. And stink eye to all those baboozes seen on cam walking by the ocean. Did you not see the videos of people swept away? No one would rescue you, just fish food.
on October 28,2012 | 02:38AM
1local wrote:
if there was no warning - we would have been better off. Police caused more disruption and could have actually caused more harm and accidents with their actions. More people are called into the inundation zones when an announcement is made. The governor needs to be more prudent with his 'emergency proclamations'. Another instance of the Tsunami Center crying 'wolf'.
on October 28,2012 | 06:01AM
waikiicapt wrote:
You'd be the first person in line complaining if they didn't give a warning and people were hurt or damage was sustained. It never fails, there are always whiners like you that complain about individuals making a tough decision about hundreds of thousands of people's safety. Dude, GET A CLUE!
on October 28,2012 | 06:58AM
soundofreason wrote:
Observation: Throughout the evening we heard speculation of what "may" be. We heard about the first physical wave in California being about 1.5 ft once it hit their beach.

We heard about buoys in the ocean. Some transmit measurements every 15 seconds while others every 2 minutes.

Today we read about what was witnessed last night >>>"The highest wave recorded measured about 2.6 feet above sea level in Kahului Harbor.Gauges initially recorded a 1.6 foot wave at Makapuu at about 10:30 p.m. Kahului Harbor"

The ONLY news we get of WHAT'S "going" to happen, is the results WHEN it hits our Harbors.

WHAT are we supposed to do with that info.....THEN? NONE of these "readings" came to us anytime prior

HOW is that USEFUL info?

THAT is what are "window of warning" system is?

HOW much is being spent on our tsunami warning system - a system that yielded NO advance notice readings to the public last night? We didn't know WHAT was coming here - until it actually came.


on October 28,2012 | 07:12AM
heluhelu wrote:
Don't know if you caught KHON's (non-Hagi) coverage but Justin Cruz (KHON) & Brian Shiro (PTWC) explained there are *no* DART (Deep ocean Assessment & Reporting of Tsunami) buoys btw Queen Charlotte Islands and Hawaii relative to the path of the tsunami -- unlike the DART array between Hawaii and Asia/Australasia/Micronesia. So, there was no way to measure wave amplitude etc. data until the set arrived. [ www.ndbc.noaa.gov/dart.shtml ]
on October 28,2012 | 08:25AM
soundofreason wrote:
THANK you for answering that !!!
on October 28,2012 | 09:59AM
soundofreason wrote:
On second thought- WHY would they even bother mentioninig that some buoys send in information every15 seconds while others every 2 minutes - if their were no buoys?
on October 28,2012 | 01:36PM
heluhelu wrote:
Don't know who "they" are but could be referring to local DART buoys (Hawaiian Is), Canadian coastal DART buoys north/south of epicenter or other non-DART metereological buoys. Repeat: there were *zero* DART buoys along the direct path of the tsunami from Queen Charlotte epicenter to Hawaii.
on October 28,2012 | 06:57PM
Oye_Como_Va wrote:
Thank you Mazie Hirono for the funding of the Tsunami Warning Center. Could you boost the funding to hire more qualified or get them equipment to make correct decisions? Regarding the warning, it was great that originally it was said there was nothing to worry about then later it became a concern and it really did not help when HPD was directing traffic out of Waikiki especially blocking the traffic flow on the Ala Wai Canal. It was worse than when we had that tsunami scare some years back when it was suuposed to hit by the early evening. The traffic cleared on Ala Wai Blvd.by 10:28 with no officers in sight. I monitored the water level of the Ala Wai canal from my building and did not see any changes in the kevel nor the flow as I did when the Japan tsunami hit a few years ago. I read somewhere where someone mentioned what peovisions have been made for the Honolulu Zoo animals. What would happen if a tsunami were to tear down the zoo and the animals got loose?
on October 29,2012 | 12:26AM
Ambergris23 wrote:
It is always better to err on the side of caution... Better to have nothing come of the warning, than to give no warning and have hundreds or thousands hurt/ killed in case of a real tsunami.
on October 28,2012 | 07:25AM
false wrote:
We were so fortunate! There would be a lot of us looking for gas and supplies this morning. Lucky for our families living on the "ocean fronts" that didn't suffer any damage. Count ourselves lucky for not having a Wave and its attending financial and resource limitations. We were blessed. We need to own the common sense of hearing the magnitude of the earth quake and do what is reasonable on our own. Even if it's not an event, we could eliminate the "crush" to evacuate if we just got going on our own sooner. How often do we have to make sacrifices of shopping, eating out or unnecessary travel for an earth quake in the zone of threat to Hawaii? We shouldn't rely on a warning system for common sense. Get yourself out of the way before the problem arises.
on October 28,2012 | 08:22AM
allie wrote:
True...but we were safe in Manoa. Almost cozy in our dorms.
on October 28,2012 | 04:30PM
Oye_Como_Va wrote:
How far inland is 16 miles from the Waikiki/Ala Moana shoreline? Someone has predicted that if there was a volcanic landslide on the Big Island we would have a 30 minute lead time before a Mega tsunami would hit Honolulu. Would the electric power plants be destroyed along with most of our news stations? Probably the airport, Naval base and Hickam. Only Wheeler & Schofield would be safe.
on October 29,2012 | 12:35AM
Larry01 wrote:
Ditto your remarks. Better safe than sorry!
on October 29,2012 | 08:21AM
allie wrote:
True but the reckless driving and many accidents, one fatal, really hurt. And the confused and unimpressive pacific Tsunami Warning Center kept saying that they had not made a mistake and 'wished the first wave was higher" to justify their miscalculation.
on October 28,2012 | 04:29PM
Oye_Como_Va wrote:
These guys did their best with the fundung they received from Mazie Hirono, show your apprecuation.
on October 29,2012 | 12:37AM
bender wrote:
The short notice we had for this even points out how ill prepared we are. I was viewing traffic jams on TV even as the predicted arrival time had passed. I do not live in an inudation zone but we were warned by helicopters to evacuate. If our area evacuated we would have added to the congestion on the roadways.
on October 28,2012 | 05:48AM
looking4u wrote:
In the wake of so many sirens not working, they should be tested on the first and fifteenth business day of each month. We need to step up our repairs and increase the number of sirens on the island. This is so important in saving lives. There are a lot of earthquakes going on now, and it is only a matter of time before a big wave hits us again I still remember 1946 and 1960 It looks like the evacuation may not have been necessary." But it’s better to be safe than sorry. COME ON GOVERNOR GET THIS ONE MOVING.
on October 28,2012 | 07:53AM
wondermn1 wrote:
The Tsunami warning was fine, it was the police in Maili that screwed everything up. They held us at damm roadblock for 4 hours, even aftert the govenor and the Mayor were on television giving the clear. All we wanted was to get back to our families to see if they were ok and stop the thieves from getting intop our homes The motorcycle cops gave me a ticket for blowing my horn ( I only tapped it twice) after the all clear was done and we just sat & sat in the traffic and the idiot motorcycle cops were just plain harrassing people. Next time they want an evacuation good luck they really screwed that up last night with a good warning but bad gastapo tactics by the police.
on October 28,2012 | 08:05AM
allie wrote:
True..there was a fair amount of confusion last night
on October 28,2012 | 04:31PM
Oye_Como_Va wrote:
Come on, lighten up on Honolulu's finest. They have enough internal problems at the department.
on October 29,2012 | 12:40AM
heluhelu wrote:
"[A]bout 30 families had gathered in the parking lot of Asing Community Park, a designated evacuation site. As of 11 p.m., however, the community center had not yet been opened." -- Way to go governor. What? Couldn't leave the pupu table at Diamond Head shelter? How else to explain locked evacuation centers HOURS after citizens are advised to evacuate? Also, WHERE, exactly, were your Civil Defense directors, i.e, those SPECIFIC appointees responsible for MANAGING emergencies like last nite's? Don't recall seeing/hearing from Darryll Wong (CD Director) OR Doug Mayne (CD Vice-Director) anywhere at any time. Props, meanwhile, to Justin Cruz (KHON) for sticking to the facts & immunizing viewers from Hagi-itis. Fear Factor may be fun to watch, but it's no way to ensure calm or cover emergencies.
on October 28,2012 | 08:05AM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
Guy Hagi's is consistantly over doing it on the fear mongering and the public will probably blow him off come the next warning. The higher ups at KGMB need to tone him down. One day someone will get killed because they are not going to take him seriously. For me I'm switching to KITV because I'm sick of the morning news crew's overtly pro-Obama slant. Please watch some Bob Sevey tapes and learn about objective journalism please.
on October 28,2012 | 11:45PM
Oye_Como_Va wrote:
I was waiting to hear Guy say whether the senior citizen's would lose the Social Security & Medicare like all the liberal gibberish coming from their stations.
on October 29,2012 | 12:43AM
wondermn1 wrote:
The Tsunami warning & evacuation was fine it was the police that screwed up the traffic in Maile last night. even after 1 am when it was clear the motercycle cop still held people and gave tickets if they used their horn. W.hat a joke un neccesary use of a horn. get a life HPD. Just plain harrassment when all we wanted was to get home to our kids and make sure the house was not burglerised. shame on the cop who thought he was God
on October 28,2012 | 08:15AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
No win situation for the officials in charge. If they ignore the wave and a big one arrives they are criticized without mercy. If they err on the side of caution, they get nailed too. A couple of personal observations, though: 1 - when the ships at Pearl Harbor are left alone, there could not be too much concern otherwise they would go out to sea. 2 - the Ala Wai Blvd is obviously inadequate as an exit route from Waikiki - it jams up and stays jammed - there has to be a cross-canal connection, probably at University. 3- the local newscaster need to know when to shut up and when to speculate - they get all in a tizzy and scare people based on inadequate information.
on October 28,2012 | 08:25AM
nomakeshame wrote:
I kind of remember back in 1986 when we had a tsunami warning that the downtown area used all the streets going makai and turned them into streets going mauka. Watching the evacuation process out of Waikiki on the internet last night, I wondered if the same could have been done to Kalakaua Avenue and Kuhio Avenue at the center of Waikiki and have the cars going all in one direction, either towards Diamond Head/Kapahulu Avenue or towards Punahou/McCully area. Of course, closing all inbound traffic to Waikiki from Ala Moana Blvd/Fishermans Wharf and using those traffic lanes as outbound lanes might have helped also. Someone needs to look into this. This time Hawaii got lucky with such a short lead time, the next time may not be so lucky.
on October 28,2012 | 08:56AM
allie wrote:
yup
on October 28,2012 | 04:31PM
Oye_Como_Va wrote:
All the more reason to say, 'damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead' with Rail! Oh wait, they would have to shut down since the rail uses electricity. My bad, too bad.
on October 29,2012 | 12:53AM
all_fed_up wrote:
Quit grumbling all you monku-tares. This was done to protect your @sses.
on October 28,2012 | 09:03AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I agree! My only monku is about the headline.....how can a tsunami "amble"? Amble refers to locomotion with legs, a leisurely walk, a slow gait....waves don't "amble".
on October 28,2012 | 10:35AM
all_fed_up wrote:
Agreed.
on October 28,2012 | 11:01AM
heluhelu wrote:
Grumbling about grumblers. That's original. So glad u thought everything was perfect. No complain, no improve. Just fume & scowl because kanakas want/expect better. But nNo cry when the next one comes & u no place to go (unopened evacuation centers, incorrect info, broken sirens, blocked or dangerous roads because of media chicken-littles urging panicky drivers to stock up last minute).
on October 28,2012 | 12:25PM
Peacenik wrote:
Not complaining, just wondering. Why traffic and buses to Waikiki blocked? Maybe some needed to go home from work to Waikiki or work. Bus through Waikiki also goes to Kapahulu. Some stucked in traffic jams in danger area advised to leave cars and go into high rises. Where to park their cars? Almost impossible to find space on a normal night in Waikiki. Last but not least, why people allowed to go to end of Kapahulu groin?
on October 28,2012 | 09:37AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
My daughter's place is on high ground near Kili Drive. Lots of Waianae/Makaha residents roosted up there until the coast was clear. I went to sleep @ 11pm. zzzzzzz
on October 28,2012 | 08:02PM
Oye_Como_Va wrote:
All the more reason to say, 'da*n the torpedoes, full speed ahead' with Rail! Oh wait, they would have to shut down since the rail uses electricity. My bad, too bad.
on October 29,2012 | 12:53AM
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