Tsunami Waves Reach 7 Feet in Hawaii, No Major Damage

Disasters and AccidentsJapan Earthquake and Tsunami (2011)WeatherCNN (tv network)Ocean TidesU.S. Coast Guard

HONOLULU , Hawaii -- The ripple effect of Japan's deadly earthquake and tsunami appeared Friday to spare Hawaii and the U.S. mainland from major damage, although it damaged vessels and washed fish up on the shore in Maui.

A tsunami warning in Hawaii was downgraded to an advisory, the State Civil Defense said Friday.

Gerard Fryer with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said evacuation orders were being lifted. "You no longer have to remain evacuated, but stay off the beach," the geophysicist said.

During a news conference Friday, President Obama said authorities are still taking the potential danger seriously and urged citizens to do the same.

"We are telling people if you are told to evacuate, do as you are told," Obama said.

On the U.S. mainland, "there hasn't been any major damage so far, but we are taking the situation very seriously," he said.

A U.S. Coast Guard plane took to the sky over Hawaii at first light to check for damage.

Beaches in Orange County, California, remained closed as a precaution. A low tide helped the coast weather the waves.

Sailing vessels were knocked loose from their moorings at a marina in Santa Cruz, California. Several were swamped.

The tsunami brought waves of about 6 feet to a harbor in Maui, authorities said, but other areas reported lower levels, including Honolulu at 2.2 feet and Hilo at 4.3.

No major damage had been reported in Hawaii five hours after the first waves arrived, but officials said they would know more later in the day.

Sensors on the southern end of the island of Hawaii, sometimes called the "Big Island," were wet, indicating ocean water had come at least 100 feet ashore, officials said.

CNN affiliate Hawaii News Now broadcast images of fish washed up by the tsunami on Maui.

Kerry Gershaneck of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard told Hawaii News Now that the operation planned to open once officials gave the "all clear."

Businessman Charlie Leonard, who lives on the 19th floor of a condo on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, said Hawaiians took this tsunami more seriously than they did last year following an earthquake in Chile.

"You could hear a pin drop in Waikiki," Leonard said.

"It came home to people," he said, referring to the devastation in Japan. "I think everybody's grateful" that damage does not appear to be major.

Honolulu is about 6,859 miles (11,038 kilometers) from the location of the February 2010 Chile earthquake. Sendai, Japan -- located near the epicenter of Friday's quake -- is 3,782 miles (6,086 kilometers) away.

Leonard and a business partner operate a waste and recycling business and had to move about 50 trucks late Thursday.

Geraldine DeConte, owner of Hilo Harry's Taxi, told CNN there was a small surge of water onto land, but conditions were "pretty moderate. It's no big thing." Her business, fortunately, is on higher ground.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center predicted the waves, which came in about every 15 minutes, were "not going to be a major damaging event" for Hawaii, but may cause scattered damage, particularly to harbors and coastal facilities.

It appeared the state's residents had heeded calls to move away from the coast. Honolulu officials told residents to "be aware that inundation effects could continue for several hours."

"We called this one right," center geophysicist Gerard Fryer said. "This evacuation was necessary."

Waves of between 6 and 7 feet were reported at Kahului harbor in Maui, Fryer said, adding that it was difficult to tell what would happen on all the islands. "We have significant energy bouncing around the Hawaiian Islands."

Communities along much of the U.S. West Coast were under tsunami warnings and advisories, too.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee says he feels "confident we will not be hurt by this."

He expected the city to get waves 1 to 2 feet higher than normal. Extra precautions have been taken in case the situation worsens, but he said he has not had reason to call for evacuations.

"I ask the public to remain calm," Lee said.

He said he will be calling Japan's consul-general in San Francisco to offer any assistance to that country.

The first impact in Hawaii was felt shortly after 3:07 a.m. (8:07 a.m. ET), according to Hawaii State Civil Defense, which issued a tsunami warning.

Hawaii Public Radio news director Bill Dorman told CNN some roads were closed as a precaution.

Hawaiian emergency officials reminded residents that tsunami evacuation maps can be found in front of their telephone directories.

Chief Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson in Honolulu told CNN the U.S. Coast Guard worked with local port authorities and harbor masters to get the word to all mariners to get out to sea.

The threat of a tsunami prompted the U.S. National Weather Service to issue a warning for at least 50 countries or territories around the Pacific after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck Japan on Friday. The warnings for Guam and Indonesia were later lifted.

Obama said he instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be prepared to help Hawaii and other U.S. regions "that could be affected" by the disaster.

CNN iReporter Ken Papagno, who lives on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, recorded the sirens that sounded throughout the island.

Hawaii had a tsunami scare in February 2010 after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Chile. A warning cancellation occurred nearly two hours after the first waves came ashore. Coast Guard crews said they had found no significant damage to ports or waterways as a result of the tsunami, ending a significant evacuation to higher ground.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Disasters and AccidentsJapan Earthquake and Tsunami (2011)WeatherCNN (tv network)Ocean TidesU.S. Coast Guard