Tsunami waves have reached Hawaii, but the first waves hitting the state are only about a foot higher than usual, according to officials and local news reports.
Officials had ordered an evacuation of Hawaii's coastal areas after the devastating 8.9 earthquake near Japan, which was expected to begin hitting the state at about 3 a.m. local time, or 5 a.m. Pacific time. Authorities warned of maximum wave heights of up to 6 feet.
There have been no immediate reports of widespread damage. Still, authorities said more tsunami waves were expected and it was too early to tell whether Hawaii would escape harm.
"Be aware that inundation effects could continue for several hours. Do not go near coastal areas," the Honolulu Department of Emergency Management said in a statement.
At a refuge area set up at the Le Jardin Academy in Kailua on the eastern edge of the island of Oahu, dozens of cars were parked, as people walked their dogs or slept in the cars in the predawn darkness. Inside a bright, noisy gymnasium, others slept on blankets and pillows, while nearby a few children played with balls and hoola hoops.
Evacuee Emily Joyce, sitting on her beach chair and trying to download a movie on her laptop, said she was worried about her home.
"We're supposed to sell our house, and if it gets damaged, that's a really bad thing," she said.
Denny Arons, a police detective sergeant from Minnesota visiting his daughter in Kailua, said he wasn't too worried about the threat.
After his daughter, Joellen, was called back to her job at the U.S. Coast Guard to deal with the tsunami, Arons said he decided to evacuate her beachside home with his adult son, Steven, just as a precaution. "It's not so bad," said Arons, 49.
Northern and Central California coastal areas north of Point Concepcion, including the San Francisco Bay Area, are also on a tsunami warning, meaning those living near the beach or in low-lying areas should immediately move inland to higher ground and away from harbors and inlets.
A warning means that tsunami with "significant widespread inundation is imminent or expected."
Southern California, including the southern half of San Luis Obispo County, and the counties of Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego, are in a less-severe tsunami advisory, which means widespread inundation is not expected but that the tsunami could produce strong currents or waves dangerous to anyone in or very near the water.
The waves were expected to hit San Francisco shortly after 8 a.m. and Santa Monica and San Pedro around 8:30 a.m.
Beaches in Southern California were being closed Friday morning in anticipation of the tsunami.