Tsunami watch left many on alert for three hours

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The tsunami watch on Thursday, March 4, left many residents on alert for about three hours with emergency officials rushing to get information to the public. Boaters were probably more relieved than many others when the all-clear was given.

Many of them would have had to head out at sea to keep their boats safe if there was a tsunami warning.

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The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA) says earthquakes that were in the magnitude high 7’s were already taking place in New Zealand before 4 a.m. in Hawaii.

“And then we had several other large earthquakes that were shared. Today is one of our operational days with state partners and federal partners for COVID-19. So we had to change our posture, obviously still addressing COVID-19 operations,” said HIEMA administrator Luke Meyers.

Officials at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center had to determine the size of the waves that were generated once they got the alert.

“What we did after is we waited for confirmation of an actual wave being generated. So we would look to instruments close by in Tonga, American Samoa,” said Laura Kong from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Tsunami Information Center.

Kong said, the wave generated was small but they also had to measure the amount of energy it had as it was heading to Hawaii. The good thing is that the energy from the earthquake was going north to nouth, which she says worked in Hawaii’s favor.

“And Hawaii, we’re in the north. So most of the energy was directed not at us. So we did not expect a very large tsunami, if any,” said Kong.

If it was determined that a tsunami was coming with the potential for danger, officials say the good thing is that a warning would be sent out hours ahead of arrival.

“We have a system of setting the sirens off hours in advance and working with our county partners to get that message out. And then as the tsunami wave potentially gets closer, we would share that information,” said Mayers.

They gave the all-clear around 12:30 p.m., much to the relief of many — especially the boaters. Among them was Joe Ganahl, who was trying to get his boat fixed before the tsunami was scheduled to arrive.

“We’re actually trying to repair my transmission right now, and I’m afraid pulling out to avoid the tsunami is not gonna be an option for me,” said Ganahl.

Other precautions remain in place on the Big Island. Beaches and State parks in west Hawaii closed at 2 p.m. and boaters in small boat harbors are asked to make sure their vessels are secure.

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