earthquake science
10:56 pm
Sat October 27, 2012

Update: Tsunami waves smaller than expected in Hawaii 
after quake

HONOLULU – A geologist tracking a tsunami in Hawaii says the first waves hitting shore are smaller than expected.

Gerard Fryer of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said Saturday night the largest wave was measured at 5 feet in Maui in the first 45 minutes.

Warning changes

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center had issued a tsunami warning for all Hawaiian islands Saturday night, hours after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off Canada's west coast. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie proclaimed an emergency, mobilizing extra safety measures.

Officials originally said there was no threat to Hawaii but changed that after taking new sea level readings.

Warning sirens blared while residents drove away from coasts and tourists were evacuated from lower floors of beachside hotels. Incoming bus routes were shut off into Waikiki and police shut down a Halloween block party in Honolulu.

What showed up

Fryer says it's starting to look like a statewide evacuation from coastal areas was unnecessary. But it could be several hours before the warning is canceled.

The National Weather Service says there are reports of water quickly receding in bays, including Hilo Bay on the Big Island.

Tsunami waves are stronger and different from normal beach waves. Fryer says 3-foot tsunami waves would be strong enough to flood two blocks in from shore.

The warning comes after a powerful earthquake struck off the coast of Canada.

Previous version of this story:

The first wave from a small tsunami has been reported in a southeast Alaska community.

State officials say a wave with a height of about 4 inches was measured in Craig late Saturday evening.

That was smaller than earlier forecasts, which said the wave could have been up to 1 foot.

Parts of southeast Alaska and the Canadian coast remain under a tsunami warning.

The warning was sparked by a strong earthquake Saturday night that shook off the west coast of Canada. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit in the Queen Charlotte Islands area, followed by a 5.8-magnitude aftershock several minutes later.

Resources:

From the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center run by NOAA:

EVALUATION

NO DESTRUCTIVE WIDESPREAD TSUNAMI THREAT EXISTS BASED ON HISTORICAL EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI DATA. HOWEVER - THE WEST COAST/ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER HAS ISSUED A REGIONAL WARNING FOR COASTS LOCATED NEAR THE EARTHQUAKE. THIS CENTER WILL CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE SITUATION BUT DOES NOT EXPECT A WIDER THREAT TO OCCUR.

The Anchorage Daily News reported of the earthquake:

Urs Thomas, operator of the Golden Spruce hotel in Port Clements said there was no warning before everything began moving inside and outside the hotel. He said it last about three minutes.

"It was a pretty good shock," Thomas, 59, said. "I looked at my boat outside. It was rocking. Everything was moving. My truck was moving."

After the initial jolt, Thomas began to check the hotel.

"The fixtures and everything were still swinging," he said. "I had some picture frames coming down."

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