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Tsunami advisory issued, but no major threat seen

Motorists line up at a Ward Avenue service station to fill up

By Star-Advertiser staff

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 10:12 p.m. HST, Apr 01, 2014


As Pacific Tsunami Warning Center officials Tuesday evening issued a tsunami advisory for the islands, saying a major seismic wave is not expected in Hawaii, at least one Honolulu service station ran out of two grades of gasoline when motorists lined up to fill their tanks.

An employee of the French Wrench Shell on Ward Avenue said the station was out of regular and plus gasoline Tuesday night.

Meanwhile officials were expecting sea-level changes and strong currents to occur starting early Wednesday morning.

The advisory comes after a magnitude-8.2 quake struck off the coast of Chile Tuesday. It sent a tsunami of more than 6 feet to Chilean coastal cities.

"Based on all available data a major tsunami is not expected to strike the state of Hawaii. However, sea level changes and strong currents may occur along all coasts that could be a hazard to swimmers and boaters as well as to persons near the shore at beaches and in harbors and marinas," the PTWC advisory said.

The threat may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival at about 3:24 a.m., officials said.

Charles "Chip" McCreery, PTWC's geophysicist in charge, said a tsunami advisory means "there is a threat for swimmers -- strong currents, maybe minor flooding of beaches, harbors, but no real flooding of the land that would require a full evacuation."

"Everyone should be cautious around the ocean," he added.

The Honolulu Department of Emergency Management urged the public to stay out of the water Wednesday from 3 to 8 a.m., but stressed that no evacuations are necessary. "Swimmers, boaters, beachgoers stay out of the ocean and away from immediate shorelines until at least mid-morning tomorrow, Wednesday. Also stay away from streams and canals that feed directly from the ocean," the city bulletin said.

The Coast Guard advised the public to remain vigilant of hazardous currents and tidal surges Wednesday morning.

All mariners should "ensure that their vessels are secured for possible changes in sea conditions and that all individuals use caution when taking part in water activities," Coast Guard officials said.

"Stay out of the ocean overnight and tomorrow morning," Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a news release. "Thankfully there is no destructive tsunami and it appears there will be no major threat to land on Oahu, but the earthquake in Chile may create dangerous ocean currents from 3 a.m. through the morning. Safety first."

PTWC officials have been updating state and county civil defense officials, McCreery said.

The quake struck at 8:46 p.m. in Iquique (1:46 p.m. Hawaii time), 59 miles northwest of Iquique, Chile, at a depth of 12.5 miles, according to preliminary information from the U.S. Geological Survey. It was initially measured at magnitude 8.0, but was upgraded to 8.2 by the USGS.

At least 10 aftershocks greater than magnitude 5.0 were recorded in the hours after the quake.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued an alert for all of Latin America's Pacific coast.

U.S. officials say they've found no threat of a tsunami along the coasts of Alaska, California, Oregon or Washington.

The tremor shook buildings in parts of the nearby nations of Bolivia and Peru. Waves measuring about 6 1/2 feet struck cities on the northern coast of Chile. 

In the past two weeks, hundreds of earthquakes have shaken Chile's far-northern coast, keeping people on edge as scientists said there was no way to tell if the unusual string of tremors was a harbinger of an impending disaster.

The unnerving activity began with a strong magnitude-6.7 quake on March 16 that caused more than 100,000 people to briefly evacuate low-lying areas, although no tsunami materialized and there was little physical damage from the shaking.

Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. A magnitude-8.8 quake and ensuing tsunami in central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts. Hawaii was placed under a tsunami warning after that event but the islands did not suffer any major damage. The 2010 Chilean quake was about 1,200 miles south of Tuesday's quake.

The strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth also happened in Chile, a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people. That quake sent a tsunami of up to 35 feet to Hilo, destroying buildings and killing 61 people.

Hawaii Island was also struck in April 1, 1946, when a 8.1-magnitude earthquake in the Aleutian Islands resulted in a tsunami that flooded downtown Hilo, killing 159 people. The state later ordered two neighborhoods permanently evacuated because of the inundation risk.

To commemorate that event, April 1 is the start of Tsunami Awareness Month in Hawaii.

The magnitude-8.9 earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 also triggered a tsunami in Hawaii, which left an estimated $30 million in damage in its wake. Private homes and hotels on Maui and the Big Island were damaged, including the Kona Village and Resort, which had some of its luxury bungalows either knocked from their foundations or inundated with water.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.





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