(AP) — Tsunami waves hit Hawaii in the early morning hours Friday, March 11, 2001 and
were sweeping through the island chain after an earthquake in Japan
sparked evacuations throughout the Pacific and as far as the U.S.
Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said Kauai was the first of the Hawaiian
islands hit by the tsunami. Water rushed ashore in Honolulu, swamping
the beach in Waikiki and surging over the break wall in the world-famous
resort but stopping short of the area’s high-rise hotels.
about three feet high were recorded on Oahu and Kauai, and officials warned
that the waves would continue and could become larger.
and beaches were empty as the tsunami struck the state, which had hours
to prepare. Residents in coastal areas of Hawaii were sent to refuge
areas at community centers and schools while tourists in Waikiki were
moved to higher floors of their hotels. People waited in long lines
stocking up on gas, bottled water, canned food and generators, and
officials told residents to stock up on water and fill their cars with
tsunami, spawned by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan, slammed the
eastern coast of Japan, sweeping away boats, cars, homes, and people as
widespread fires burned out of control. It raced across the Pacific at
500 mph and likely won’t change speed until it
hits a large area of land, said Kanoa Koyanagi, a geophysicist for the
Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
are predicted to hit the western coast of the U.S. between 11
a.m. and 11:30 a.m. EST Friday. Evacuations were ordered in parts of
Washington and Oregon, and people near the beach and in low-lying
coastal areas in Santa Barbara County, California, were told to move
immediately inland to higher ground.
was the second time in a little over a year that Hawaii and the U.S.
West coast faced the threat of a massive tsunami. A magnitude-8.8
earthquake in Chile spawned warnings on Feb. 27, 2010, but the waves
were much smaller than predicted and almost no damage was reported.
acknowledged they overstated the threat but defended their actions,
saying they took the proper steps and learned the lessons of the 2004
Indonesian tsunami that killed thousands of people who didn’t get enough
Friday, the Honolulu International Airport remained open but seven or
eight jets bound for Hawaii have turned around, including some
originating from Japan, the state Department of Transportation said.
All harbors are closed and vessels were being ordered to leave the harbor.
islands in the Pacific evacuated after the warnings were issued, but
officials told residents to go home because the waves weren’t as bad as
expected. But the size of Hawaii’s islands is expected to amplify the
waves, which will crash hardest against harbors and inlets.
going to be coming in with high currents, they can pick up boulders
from the sea floor … they can pick up cars, they can pick up fuel
tanks, those things become battering rams and so it just amplifies the
destruction in a big tsunami,” said Chip McCreery, director for the
Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Waves almost five feet high hit Midway, a tiny island in the North Pacific about 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu.
warnings issued by the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center
cover an area stretching the entire western coast of the U.S.
and Canada from the Mexican border to Chignik Bay in Alaska.
Alaska, a dozen small communities along the Aleutian Island chain were
on alert. A wave just over five feet hit one area, but there were no
reports of damage.
In Oregon, sirens blasted in some coastal communities and at least one hotel was evacuated in the northern part of the state.
in two coastal Washington counties used a reverse 911 system, phoning
residents on the coast and in low-lying areas and asking them to move to
certainly don’t want to cry wolf,” said Sheriff Scott Johnson of
Washington’s Pacific County. “We just have to hope we’re doing the right
thing based on our information. We don’t want to be wrong and have
people hurt or killed.
tsunami warning was issued Friday at 3:31 a.m. EST. Sirens were sounded
about 30 minutes later in Honolulu alerting people in coastal areas to
evacuate. About 70% of Hawaii’s 1.4 million population resides in
Honolulu, and as many as 100,000 tourists are in the city on any given
Department of Emergency Management has created refuge areas at
community centers and schools, and authorities on Kauai island have
opened 11 schools to serve as shelters for those who have left tsunami
cleared out across Hawaii with usually bustling Waikiki mostly free of
any foot traffic, with police ordering every one into the hotels. At the
hotels, visitors were evacuated to the third floor and higher.
situation we’re confronting right now is unpredictable. We do not know
how many waves are going to be coming,” said Honolulu Mayor Peter
Carlisle. “We do not know which wave, if any wave, causes the most
damage and how long the series of waves can last. As a result of that,
it is our responsibility to do those things which are absolutely
essential to ensure that human life is saved.”
small 4.5-magnitude earthquake struck the Big Island just before 5 a.m.
EST, but there were no reports of damages and the quakes weren’t likely
related, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey said.
Coast Guard rescue crews were making preparations throughout the
Hawaiian Islands to provide post-tsunami support, with cutter and
aircraft crews positioning themselves to conduct response and survey
Fujimoto said early Friday that the mood is calm but concerned on the
island of Kauai while people readying for the tsunami.
Long lines formed at gas stations and people went to Wal-Mart to stock up on supplies.
“You got people walking out of there with wagonloads of water,” he said.
worst big wave to strike the U.S. was a 1946 tsunami caused by a
magnitude of 8.1 earthquake near Unimak Islands, Alaska, that killed 165
people, mostly in Hawaii. In 1960, a magnitude 9.5 earthquake in
southern Chile caused a tsunami that killed at least 1,716 people,
including 61 people in Hilo. It also destroyed most of that city’s
downtown. On the U.S. mainland, a 1964 tsunami from a 9.2 magnitude
earthquake in Prince William Sound, Alaska, struck Washington State,
Oregon and California. It killed 128 people, including 11 in Crescent
Press Writers contributing to this report include Audrey McAvoy in
Honolulu, Denise Petski in Los Angeles, Kathy McCarthy in Seattle,
Michelle Price and Carson Walker in Phoenix. Niesse contributed from Ewa
SOURCE: The Associated Press