Friday, March 11, 2011

Earthquake in Japan,
tsunami watch warning in Hawaii

Hawaii State Civil Defense information site HERE

A tsunami carries boats across waters in Kamaishi city
port in this still image taken from NHK video footage.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of northern Japan, which was struck by a powerful 8.9-magnitude earthquake earlier today, followed by a massive ten-meter high tsunami that swept away cars, boats, and even buildings [update: more tsunami video here]. I have not seen any reports of casualties, but there undoubtedly are many [update: At least 32 deaths].

NHK footage shows a ship upturned by a tsunami in Aomori Prefecture.

Here in Hawaii, the tsunami sirens have just gone off (9:57 to 10:00 p.m.). Immediately after news of the earthquake, there was a tsunami watch for the Hawaiian Islands, but it was just now upgraded to a tsunami warning (the difference between a tsunami watch and a tsunami warning is here). They are saying that all shores in the state are vulnerable, no matter which direction they face.

[Please note that Hawaii is not the only place threatened by tsunamis. The American territories of Guam and the Mariana Islands are also under threat, as are a number of other places in other countries ringing the Pacific Ocean.]

Any possible tsunami event would hit Oahu at around 2:59 3:07 a.m., four and a half hours from now. The western side of the island is most vulnerable. Judging by the last tsunami warning we had (which I live-blogged about here, here, and here), I'm on high enough ground (i.e., outside the evacuation zone), but tourists in Waikiki and especially residents of Waianae or Ewa Beach have got to be nervous.

Stay safe, everyone.

UPDATE 4 (the following morning):
With little news from Japan last night and with the coastal evacuation being a very big deal right here in Honolulu, updates to this post inevitably became more about Hawaii than Japan. I have since made a post exclusively about Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami here.

UPDATE 1 (10:30 p.m. HST):
All coastal areas are to be evacuated immediately. Honolulu Mayor Carlisle is announcing this. Waikiki visitors and residents may have to do a "vertical evacuation."

They are expecting wave amplitudes of two meters (about six feet).

Here is the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's handy-dandy list of refuge centers (outside the evacuation zone, of course).

More precise maps of the evacuation zones can be found here. The Hawaii State Civil Defense site at the top also has a link where you can input your address and see if you're okay or not. (This is something all residents should know before a tsunami watch or warning is issued... just sayin'.)

UPDATE 2 (11:15 p.m. HST):
It's 11:15 p.m. and those eerie sirens have gone off again. I'm out of the evacuation zone, but I suspect I'll be kept up all night from that. I guess that's a small price to pay for not getting killed.

UPDATE 3 (12:30 a.m. HST):
Long lines are being reported at gas stations, convenience stores, and supermarkets like Safeway. Okay, the food and water I get, but why gas? I mean, where ya gonna go? It's an island?

My dad always taught me to be prepared for anything by having as full a tank of gas as possible. That helped him evade the Feds for twenty-seven years.

UPDATE 5 (about 9 a.m. the following morning):
Update 4 deserved to be higher up than this. Anyway, I woke up this morning and everything feels fine here. I guess we're all okay, unless we're in a flash-sideways à la Lost.

The all-clear has been sounded and people can now return to the coast. Some damage from the tsunami was reported here on Oahu and on other islands, but I haven't seen any reports of death.

Schools across the state have been closed for Friday, including the universities and junior colleges. Even though most were not in evacuation zones, enough of their students were, such that it would have been disruptive to force them to go to class after evacuating their homes in the middle of the night.

From the Star-Advertiser:
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle has issued an all clear for Oahu residents after tsunami waves overnight caused a mass evacuation of coastal areas statewide.

Carlisle said city officials waited until after daybreak to assess the situation before declaring it is safe to return to the coast. No injuries have been reported from the waves, but damage is reported on three islands.

The surges caused extensive damage to piers and boats at Keehi Small Boat Harbor near Sand Island. The King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel got a foot of water in the lobby and canoes in the harbor were destroyed. Flooding was also reported in Kahului.

Tsunami waves from a massive Japanese earthquake began hitting Hawaii just after 3 a.m. today after an hours-long statewide coastal evacuation.

The waters continued to surge in some harbors hours after the intial wave hit.

Indeed, one witness reported a surge at Keehi Lagoon about 5:40 a.m.

Kauai also issued an all clear.

Gerard Fryer, a scientist with the Tsunami Warning Center, said an initial 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.
Here's a report on the damage at Keehi Lagoon. Flooding was reported in Maui, and damage was reported in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.

As I've noted before, Hawaii takes tsunami danger very seriously ever since the devastation at Hilo in 1960 (sixty-one killed), and I imagine had they not cleared people from the coast there would have been at least a few fatalities.

Of course, with such disasters and potential disasters, there are often looky-loos:
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?"
Maybe the fish knew enough to get the heck out of harm's way, unlike the humans who rushed to the coast to watch a tsunami come in. Fish are smart. After all, they're always in school.

Anyway, everything seems to be okay on the island, yeah? Tsunami reporting pau.

UPDATE 6 (10:20 a.m.):
When am I going to learn that nothing is ever really pau?

California also suffered millions of dollars of damage from the tsunami that hit. This includes the northern California city of Eureka, which was hit hard by a tsunami in 1964, with eleven deaths, after the 9.2-magnitude Seward earthquake in Alaska.

Would-be candidates for the Darwin Award at Surfrider Beach in Malibu
checking out the surf at the time the tsunami was to hit California. Duh, winning.

I forgot to mention that local hospitals back here in Hawaii had problems during the coastal evacuation because people who were not sick or injured were crowding the hospitals to seek shelter.

The Civil Defense folks offered tsunami information in other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Cantonese, and a number of Pacific Island languages. It's something worth noting for the next tsunami advisory. Also, get a hand-crank emergency radio if you don't have one.

Now pau.

UPDATE 7 (5:00 p.m.):
While Hawaii escaped any casualties, California was not so lucky. One man in the northern California community of Crescent City was killed:
The Coast Guard is searching for a man swept out to sea in Northern California while taking pictures of tsunami waves.

Nearby, authorities in Brookings, Ore., say four people have survived after a tsunami surge swept them off a beach in Curry County and into the sea.

The five were on the beach Friday to watch the waves generated by a massive earthquake in Japan. The Curry County sheriff's department says two were able to get out of the water on their own, and two were rescued by law enforcement and fire officials.
Let's give thanks to the civil defense workers, including law enforcement, who were out in force to save idiots from themselves. I'd be furious if some of the police or firefighters got killed because of these mooks.


  1. It is extremely sobering watching NHK video of the tsunami sweeping boats, cars, buildings, debris, and no doubt people.

  2. It is indeed. Since this post became (necessarily) about Hawaii being under a tsunami warning, I made a post dedicated just to what happened in Japan, which was far more severe than anything that would possibly have happened here in Hawaii.


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