ASSOCIATED PRESS / EUGENE TANNERA Honolulu Fire Department helicopter hovers low over Waikiki Beach attempting to chase away some people who had wandered onto the beach early Friday morning.
Hawaii remains under a tsunami warning until 7 a.m. after hours of wave surges battered isle shores from Kauai to the Big Island.
There were no reports of injuries however the surges caused extensive damage to piers and boats at Keehi Small Boat Harbor near Sand Island.
Tsunami waves from a massive Japanese earthquake began hitting Hawaii just after 3 a.m. today after an hours-long statewide coastal evacuation.
There were initial reports of flooding on Maui, however the extent will be unknown until daybreak.
The tsunami’s effects can last for hours so the “all clear” message will not be given until dawn, officials said.
Coastal roads remain closed until then.
“There has been no all clear issued,” Mayor Peter Carlisle before 5:30 a.m. “Experts are watching closely and the city will issue an all clear when it is safe to do so. Bus services are suspended until further notice. Do not go back into a flood evacuation zone until you hear an all clear. Waves and currents may continue to be significantly altered over a period of hours.”
Indeed, one witness reported a surge at Keehi Lagoon about 5:40 a.m.
“The tsunami is arriving on all islands,” said Gerard Fryer, a scientist with the Tsunami Warning Center. A 6-foot surge was detected in Kahului Harbor, and Fryer said a second surge was more than 7 feet at Kahului Harbor.
“There’s little question that there was some damage at that level,” he said.
At Napoopoo at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island, one wave reached at least 100 feet inland and an elevation of 11 or 12 feet, Fryer said.
“It could have been more than that,” he said.
However, no damage reports have been received yet.
John Cummings, a spokesman from the city’s Department of Emergency Management, said there were “signs of inundation,” on Oahu. But at this point, “nothing really major.”
The city says the all-clear will be broadcast on radio and television. There are no warning sirens for an all-clear alert.
The gauge at Nawiliwili Harbor showed a 2.1 foot surge; Haleiwa recorded a 3.6 foot surge; and Hanalei recorded 2.8 feet. The weather service says a gauge at Hilo Harbor showed a 2-foot surge. Kawaihae saw a 2.8 foot increase.
Off Diamond Head lookout, the water receded twice — once about 3:43 a.m. and again at 3:55 a.m. — exposing reef, before waves rushed back to the high water line.
More than 100 spectators gathered at the lookout to see the waves come in, and many ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ when the near-shore reef was fully exposed in seconds.
“It was creepy,” said Mike Moylan, 42, who had to evacuate his home on Kuhio Avenue and so decided to watch the waves at Diamond Head. “Seeing the water recede that much, it’s scary.”
Chana Dudoit, 28, of Kaimuki, saw the waves receding on TV and decided to rush out to see them in person. “I thought it was crazy,” she said. “Where did all the fish go?”
A tweet from the Pacific Fleet said a surge of more than 1.5 feet was detected at Pearl Harbor. No damage was reported.
The tsunami that was generated from an 8.9-magnitude quake in Japan.
The weather service reminded people that there will be a series of waves and the first wave may not be the biggest.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami watch at 7:56 p.m. after the quake struck 231 miles northeast of Tokyo.
Chip McCreary, director of the warning center, said because of the long length of tsunami waves, “they wrap around our islands very efficiently” so there is no point of impact that may see higher waves than other areas.
“There are some places that will be affected more than other places,” McCreary said. “From our history, we’ve had bigger impacts in Hilo, Kahului and Haleiwa and our models bear that out.”
Geologists and geophysicists at the Pacific Tsunami Warning center used observations from coastal gauges in Japan as well as deep ocean gauges deployed since the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake to monitor the tsunami, he said.
Even before civil defense sirens sounded just before 10 p.m., people were lining up to get gas around Oahu. Police dispatch reported arguing over gas in Ewa Beach and lines to get gas on Fort Weaver Road.
About an hour after the quake struck, Jake Chang, of Papakolea, was at the Aloha gas station on Vineyard Boulevard filling up his truck and a plastic gas container to power his generator.
“I was watching TV,” he said. “I saw the footage of Japan. It was unreal.”
In the first three hours after the quake, there were 23 significant aftershocks ranging from 5.4 to 7.1 in magnitude, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“The trough of a tsunami wave may temporarily expose the seafloor, but the area will quickly flood again,” the warning center said. “Extremely strong and unusual nearshore currents can accompany a tsunami. Debris picked up and carried by a tsunami amplifies its destructive power. Simultaneous high tides or high surf can significantly increase the tsunami hazard.”
Hawaiian Electric Co. has opened its emergency command center and is implementing its tsunami plans, according to Peter Rosegg, Hawaiian Electric spokesman.
Striking members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are still out, Rosegg said, adding that the electric company has an agreement with the union that workers will return to work in case of a “major emergency.”
“We have an agreement, but until we know the extent of the emergency we will not know what we need,” Rosegg said.
Meanwhile, HECO is moving its emergency vehicles to higher ground and Rosegg said it is shifting generation to facilities that are the least threatened by a tsunami.
“We are prepared with nonunion and management crews,” Rosegg said.
About 1,300 IBEW members went on strike Friday.
In 1854, an earthquake measuring 8.4 on the Richter scale devastated the region from Tokai to Kyushu and killed an estimated 10,000 people. In 1896, an 8.5-magnitude earthquake hit the Sanriku coast; the earthquake and the resulting tsunami killed some 27,000 people.
Tsunami waves were reportedly observed in Hawaii and California, but no significant damage was reported.
And in 1946, an 8.1-magnitude quake hit Nankaido, killing 1,362.
Over the last century, tsunami have killed hundreds of people and caused millions of dollars of damage in Hawaii. The worst took place in 1946 when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in the Aleutian Islands resulted in a tsunami that flooded downtown Hilo, killing 159 people. Hilo was hit again in 1960 when an 8.3-magnitude quake in Chile generated waves of up to 35 feet that destroyed buildings and caused 61 deaths.
The last significant tsunami in Hawaii occurred in 1975 when an earthquake off the Big Island generated a 26-foot wave that killed two people and injured several others.
Reports on tsunami from Oahu via Star Advertiser.