Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami Reaches California After Soaking Hawaii

A tsunami wave reached the West Coast of the U.S. this morning with threats of waves as tall as nine feet that could strike from California to Alaska.
Residents along the northern California and Oregon coasts reported seeing the tell-tale sign of an impending tsunami -- the waterline quickly withdrawing from the beach prior to large incoming waves.
The tsunami, which has claimed hundreds of lives in Japan, triggered warning sirens across the Pacific and led to evacuations as far away as Hawaii and Oregon.
By the time the tsunami reached California around 7:45 a.m. PST, it had soaked Hawaii's beaches but done little lasting damage there.
Officials were cautiously optimistic that the West Coast would fare similarly, but warned of waves as high as 9 feet, and banned boaters and surfers in California from entering the water.
Warning sirens began blaring in some Oregon coastal communities in the small hours of the morning, and residents were urged to seek higher ground.
Orgeon officials said highways were congested with residents evacuating low lying ares near Florence.
Sam McAlmond, a resident of Gold Beach, Ore., chose not to evacuate, but is prepared to leave his home if it becomes necesary.
"This doesn't happen too often. We liked to see it if and when anything happens," he said of the tsunami. "We have all of our necessary equipment -- fresh water and food. Filled up the tank with gas and there is an escape route."
McAlmond said he had not seen any significant waves from his beach front home.
In California, the city of San Francisco activated it's emergency operations response team and closed its coastal highway. All coastal access to San Francisco area beaches have been closed.
The 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan Friday afternoon local time, triggering a tsunami that is speeding across the Pacific Ocean at speeds of 500 mph, as fast as a jet airplane.
Hawaii Gets Soaked But More Waves Anticipated
The tsunami reached Hawaii around 3:30 a.m. local time. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says Kauai was the first island hit early by the wave, which quickly swept through the Hawaiian Island chain. There were no immediate reports of serious damage.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey the first wave to hit is not as large as experts anticipated, but bigger ones are expected to follow.
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie ordered the evacuation of coastal areas. Through the night, residents waited on lines to buy gas, bottled water, canned food and generators.
At least tens of thousands of people were evacuated and there were reports of fighting at gas stations as people fuel up their cars to move inland in Hawaii.
"We have been hearing those reports and we've asked everybody to stop doing that, to get out of the way and that their hindering the evacuation," Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle said.
"It's not just a wave, it's a series of waves and no one knows which one will be the strongest, no one knows which one will do the most of damage and we don't even know how long they will last, they could last for a series of hours," Carlisle said.
Officials did not regret the call for evacuations. "We called this right. This evacuation was necessary," said geophysicist Gerard Fryer in Hawaii. "There's absolutely no question, this was the right thing to do."
Brian Shiro of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the tsunami that will reach the Wes Coast "loses a little bit of power because of friction from the bottom of the ocean, but this tsunami is pretty sufficient."
Shiro said the West Coast could see waves as high as 9 feet.
"Some places in California will see 6 feet in some cases 9 feet. This could certainly be a bad day for people on the beach. If you have a house right on the water... it could be flooded," he said.
Tsunami Racing Across the Pacific at 500 MPH
The tsunami is expected to hit Los Angeles at 8:30 a.m. local time, but another, bigger wave is expected two hours later when the tide is higher, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The 8.9 magnitude earthquake is the fifth largest ever recorded and extended along a 400 mile fault zone.

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