Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hawaii's tsunami advisory now a TSUNAMI WARNING

UPDATE 7 (2:26 p.m.):
The warning has been canceled and it appears no damage has been reported (see update #4 here).

UPDATE 6 (12:29 p.m.):
The Honolulu Advertiser has a story on the tsunami waves making its way up the island chain, with reports on what has happened where and what we could expect (whether we're still in danger and when it will be over):
The leading edge of a tsunami generated by an earthquake in Chile is surging through Hilo Bay and Kahului Harbor and advancing up the island chain.

At noon, water was receding rapidly in Kahului Harbor, and there were reports of similar activity in Barbers Point and Hawaii Kai on Oahu.

Gauges monitored by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center suggest that ocean levels rose 3 feet before noon today during a state-wide tsunami warning and people should remain on alert.

"It's not an all-clear," said Ed Teixeira, state Civil Defense vice director. "... We're not out of the woods yet."

"The build-up of this particular seismic event ... is slow in building," Teixeira said.

The warning center said the wave on Maui is 2 meters from peak to trough, or a 1-meter wave. On the Big Island, it was 1.7 meters, peak to trough.

"This could get bigger," said Nathan Becker of the National Weather Service. "We don't know yet. This clearly is a tsunami taking place in Hawaii right now.

"We could still see a larger wave."

When waves start getting smaller, officials at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center may consider canceling today's warning, Becker said.

"We're not there yet," he said.
I had hoped to listen to a government update on this, but my live feed is now stuck.

UPDATE 5 (12:06 p.m.):
A one-meter difference in water was reported at around the predicted time, but they are warning that that is not at all necessarily the worst or last of it. The "oscillations" are typical and may indicate something more severe coming over the next hours, and they're reminding us that in the Samoa and in a past Hilo tsunami, it was the third wave that did the most damage.

I'm guessing things that are closed will stay closed for most or the rest of the day.

KHNL was also reporting damage in Ventura, California (Orange County was warned of three- to six-foot waves), and I guess that was something they were warned about for a while over there, though in Hawaii and in other Pacific islands it was considered more serious.

UPDATE 4 (11:58 a.m.):
I don't know if this is live, but the KGMB/KHNL live feed is saying that "water has been sucked out" of Maui's Kahalui Harbor, which would be a prelude for another tsunami wave coming in. They're saying this difference in feet is significant, because usually the tidal changes are just inches.

Here are evacuation maps for Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island (currently not working). Hilo on the Big Island is looking like a ghost town, but the Honolulu Advertiser link to the story isn't working. We're now past the ETA of the tsunami hitting, but I'm not seeing any reports of anything. Here's the CNN report on the story.

Here's the "live" feed from local television KITV. KHON's main story on this is here. Actually, I'm having trouble picking up live feed from either place, maybe because everyone on Oahu and his mother is doing the same.

KHON has a list of cancelled events.

I don't want to pollute this semi-informative post with my own lame observations and experiences, but if you really want to read that, here they are. Some of it might be informative, but I'm not sure.


The massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile last night is expected to bring tsunami waves of about two meters high. Honolulu's NBC affiliate, KHNL, has a streaming broadcast from the night before when the news first broke (sadly, with a dearth of late-breaking information).

The civil defense sirens (air raid sirens) just went off, warning people of a tsunami coming, though it's not expected to hit the state for four more hours (11:25 a.m.). The distance from Chile to here is to our advantage, preparation-wise, whereas an earthquake in relatively nearby Alaska gives us only four and a half hours to prepare for a tsunami, which travels at the speed of a jetliner.

Barry Hirschorn, an expert from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center being interviewed on KNHL, is explaining that this is not a normal surf wave: it is a whole column of water rising that high, and not once but in multiple waves. He also explains that because of the distance, the waves would wrap around the entire island, making even North Shore vulnerable. As I'm listening, he emphasizes that it's not over after the first wave. You have to wait for the all-clear siren.

Dr Hirshorn says that, for the expected tsunamis this time, getting to an elevation of thirty feet (about nine or ten meters) should be okay. If you are near the coast and can only go up, not inland, then that would be the third floor.

And in case you're concerned for my safety, here's a Google map of where I'm coming to you from:

View Larger Map

The Honolulu Advertiser site this morning has an entire litany of news items about this. The message is: get out of the evacuation zone and then try to stay there. If you don't have one, the City & County of Honolulu has a handy dandy PDF list of items you should have in case of emergency (and sadly Costco is now closed because of the tsunami warning).

Early indications are that a wave will hit Hawaii and it will be about two meters high. Bear in mind that this is a side of the island where such a wave doesn't typically occur, so they are expecting damage.

The authorities are treating it as a "destructive-type tsunami." Waikiki hotels are evacuating at 6 a.m. (this actually ruins plans we had to go to Eggs 'N Things), as are the homes near shore. People across Oahu are buying up emergency supplies (a lot of folks got burned when a moderate earthquake led to a nearly 24-hour power outage). Even inland facilities, like the University of Hawaii at Manoa, are closed.

On the Big Island, Hilo Airport is closing down. On the island of Kauai, people who signed up for emergency alerts started getting calls at 5:30 a.m. (such systems are all the rage on college campuses, especially after the botched handling of the situation when Cho Seung-hui had first started his horrific killing spree).

Meanwhile, we finally have news about the conditions in earthquake that was actually hit by the massive quake. The Advertiser is carrying an AP story saying that so far at least 78 people have died and a number of buildings have collapsed. Chile is much better prepared for earthquakes than, say, Haiti, so it doesn't appear that damage will be on that scale. My prayers are with them.

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  1. And the surfers, in some areas, are out in force despite warnings that tsunami waves are unridable. I've seen entire families going to the beach to see the coming waves. Human stupidity never ceases to amaze me.

  2. And there go the sirens again...

    Kushibo, if I'm not mistaken you may be in a flood zone.

  3. Goku wrote:
    And the surfers, in some areas, are out in force despite warnings that tsunami waves are unridable.

    On KHNL the guy was specifically saying that surfers should not be out there. If I didn't think I might be impeding civil defense efforts, I'd be tempted to drive along the road on the makai side of Diamond Head to see how many people really are out there.

    I've seen entire families going to the beach to see the coming waves. Human stupidity never ceases to amaze me.

    I seem to remember, when I was last northwestern California, reading that some people in Eureka and Crescent City were killed in the tsunami that resulted from the Good Friday earthquake that hit Alaska in 1964, because they actually went out to watch this cool event.

    Yeah, Darwin awards all around for that.

  4. Goku wrote:
    And there go the sirens again...

    Yep. Maybe they shouldn't have them going off on the hour, so nobody will mistakenly think it's a routine test or something.

    Kushibo, if I'm not mistaken you may be in a flood zone.

    Well, I wasn't worried... until now. I'm fairly certain we're well above the thirty-foot mark for an actual wave, but yeah, if a lot of water comes inland we may see some wet roads and stuff, but this place is on a bit of a slope, and this is the high end of the property and the street.

    I thought that, at least in this area, everything on the mauka side of the H1 freeway would be out of a flooding zone.

    [For my readers who are not in Hawaii, makai means "toward the sea" and mauka means "toward the mountains"; these are commonly used geographic reference points.]

  5. Previous tsunamis in the 40's and 60's, in Hawaii, killed 150+ & 60+ respectively, of course most of those people were spectators that went to the beach to watch the coming waves (sigh).

    On a unrelated note, Starbucks is closed in my area...FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!!

  6. Stay safe, and thanks for the on the spot citizen journalism. Stand by for traffic from a forum I participate in.

  7. Agreed on the stupidity. When a rare hurricane grazed New England, people swarmed down to the rocky shore to rubberneck, like they were at the flippin' IMAX or something. A little girl was swept away. Hope that doesn't happen in HI.


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