Tsunami surge is less than 1 foot tall
Weather service says a warning was issued by mistake after Japan was struck by a quake
A tsunami surge generated by an 8.2-magnitude earthquake in the Kuril Islands near Japan was recorded at 11 inches in Haleiwa on Oahu's North Shore early yesterday morning, and caused no damage.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach issued a tsunami watch at 6:37 p.m. Friday and for a few hours Hawaii residents and Civil Defense agencies were on high alert until the watch was canceled about three hours later.
The 8.2-magnitude earthquake in the Kuril Islands on Friday generated a tsunami that was measured in Hawaii early this morning, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The following is the estimated size of the tsunami and arrival times:
Nawiliwili Harbor, Kauai: 3.5 inches, 12:23 a.m.
Kahului Harbor, Maui: 5.51 inches, 12:49 a.m.
Haleiwa, Oahu: 11 inches, 12:55 a.m.
Hilo Harbor, Big Island: 4.7 inches, 12:59 a.m.
Except for a tsunami warning issued by mistake by the National Weather Service shortly before 8 p.m., state and county Civil Defense officials said the event went smoothly and according to rehearsed plans.
State Civil Defense spokesman Ray Lovell said all the agencies involved would meet sometime this week to review what happened and how to improve reaction to tsunami alerts.
National Weather Service lead forecaster Roy Matsuda said his agency also will be looking to prevent tsunami warnings from being sent out by accident.
The weather service mistakenly issued a tsunami warning shortly before 8 p.m., causing confusion among residents. The warning was retracted several minutes afterward.
"We're looking to get more training so we can more closely oversee the process," Matsuda said. "It was quite accidental, and we're looking at ways to avoid that."
Matsuda said human error was responsible for the warning bulletin.
No full-scale evacuations were necessary, said Oahu Civil Defense spokesman John Cummings. However, dozens of homeless and campers along the Waianae Coast moved to the mauka side of Farrington Highway.
"We also had several city buses on hand for emergency evacuation," said Cummings, adding that police and fire personnel were on hand to help residents. "The Red Cross also was standing by with shelters in case we needed to relocate people."
State Civil Defense had three employees, called a watch warning, team on duty, augmented by more than 20 employees. County civil defenses each set up their own emergency centers as well.
After the watch was called off about 9:30 p.m. Friday night, State Civil Defense recommended that each of the counties notify beach residents of the potential for unusual wave activity. Oahu Civil Defense officials were working up until 2 or 3 a.m. yesterday, notifying residents and watching the waves.
The emergency sirens did not sound because a warning was not issued, Lovell said. If a warning is issued, meaning a wave of a meter or more could hit shores, the sirens would sound three hours before the wave hits.
"Had we been in a situation where we had to conduct an evacuation, we were prepared," Lovell said.
Cummings and geophysicist Robert Cessaro of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said another Kuril Islands earthquake on Nov. 15 that generated tsunami tidal surges helped officials prepare for Friday night's incident.
Tsunami warning buoys placed in the North Pacific helped officials determine the size of the tsunami so the watch could be called off Friday night. However it took several hours before the wave reached the buoys.
"These buoys are vital in allowing us to make better decisions," Cummings said.
In Hilo, which has experienced the worst tsunamis to hit Hawaii, most residents weren't worried enough to cancel their dinner reservations, said Colin Nakagawa, manager of Seaside Restaurant in Hilo.
"We were pretty worried because we're right near the shore, but our customers knew it was only a watch," Nakagawa said.
Harrington's, a steak and seafood restaurant in Hilo, made sure all of its customers were informed, and left the TV on for updates. Though the waves were expected after midnight, some customers even stayed at the restaurant's lounge for pupus and drinks.
"No one was scared, and nobody wanted to leave," said manager Sari Kogasaka. "We're on the water, so we know exactly what needs to be done," Kogasaka said.