Tsunami advice in force on US west coast after volcanic eruption: “Move away from shore and go to high terrain”

A tsunami alert is in force off the west coast of the United States and Alaska after a volcano erupted in the Pacific Ocean. “A tsunami is about to occur,” it said It informs National Weather Service’s National Tsunami Warning Center on Saturday.

“Move away from the shore and go to high terrain,” it read, warning that the first wave may not be the greatest.

A tsunami alert – means “a dangerous wave is on its way“- was issued for the following areas extending from Southern California to the Alaska coastline, according to the Center:

  • The California coast from the California-Mexico border to the Oregon-California border, including the San Francisco Bay.
  • The Oregon coast from the Oregon-California border to the Oregon-Washington border, including the Columbia River estuary.
  • The outer coast of Washington State from the Oregon-Washington border to Slip Point, the Columbia River estuary and the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
  • The north coast of British Columbia, and Haida Gwaii, the central coast and northeast of Vancouver Island, the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, the Juan de Fuca Strait coast.
  • The Inner and Outer Coasts of Southeast Alaska from the BC-Alaska border to Cape Fairweather, Alaska.
  • Southern Alaska and the Alaska Peninsula: Pacific Coast from Cape Fairweather, Alaska, to Unimak Pass, Alaska.
  • Aleutian Islands: Unimak Pass, Alaska, to Attu, Alaska including Pribilof Islands.

A warning was also issued for Hawaii after an underwater volcano erupted on Saturday near the nation of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean. It was later canceled, after wave heights in the state began to decline.

“Small changes in sea level, strong or unusual currents may continue for several additional hours in some coastal areas and appropriate coastal areas, and appropriate caution should be exercised by sailors and swimmers,” Pacific Tsunami Warning Center tweeted.

Tonga volcanic eruption
This satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, shows an underwater volcanic eruption off the Pacific nation of Tonga on January 15, 2022.

Japan Meteorology Agency via AP


California’s governor’s office for emergency services said tsunami heights were expected to be 1-2 feet, based on what was seen in Hawaii. Floods were later reported near Santa Cruz Harbor, and some residents were evacuated. Officials also said more than 100 people evacuated Berkeley Marina, reports CBS SF Bay Area.

In Alaska, the largest mid-morning tsunami was seen in King Cove – 2.8 feet, according to the tsunami alert center.

Washington saw tsunami waves smaller than one foot, but forecasters warned that later waves could get bigger.

“A tsunami alert is still valid for the Washington coast and Juan de Fuca Strait, where waves of 1-3 feet are likely,” the National Weather Service in Seattle tweeted. “That said, strong waves and currents can not be ruled out for any part of the WA coastline, including Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.”

In Tonga, any damage was unclear as all internet connection with Tonga was lost Saturday night, according to Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for network intelligence firm Kentik, The Associated Press reported. A tsunami alert was issued for the entire archipelago, according to Tonga Meteorological Services, and 2.7 foot waves were detected, Pacific Tsunami Warning Center data showed, according to the AP.

Live aboards along the U.S. coast were urged to seek shelter.

A tsunami alert is a level below a warning – and a step above a clock. This means dangerous waves of 1-3 feet and strong currents are expected.

“Keep in mind that a tsunami is unlikely to look like a classic ‘breaking wave’; it’s more of a massive wave of water that can rise rapidly and with great force.” said Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

The tsunami alert center said some impacts “could continue for many hours to days after the arrival of the first wave.” Subsequent waves can be larger than any initial wave, and “each wave can last 5 to 45 minutes when a wave penetrates and retracts,” according to the warning center.

Signs of a tsunami include strong currents, a coastline that has retreated or is retreating rapidly, and unusual waves and sounds. “The tsunami can look like water moving rapidly out to sea, a gently rising tide like a flood without any breaking wave, like a series of breaking waves or a foaming wall of water,” the National Tsunami Warning Center said.

Dave Snider, tsunami alert coordinator for the Palmer Alaska Tsunami Warning Center, said it was not an “everyday experience” to issue a council for this length of coastline. “I’m not sure when the last time was,” he said.

“I hope it increases the importance and seriousness of our citizens.”

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