No major tsunami expected for Hawaii after 8.3M earthquake off Chile

Editor’s Note: The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center canceled Hawaii’s tsunami advisory just after 7:30 a.m. Thursday. Click here for the latest information.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says no major tsunami is expected for the state of Hawaii after an 8.3-magnitude earthquake that occurred of the coast of Chile.

Based on all available data a major tsunami is not expected to strike the state of Hawaii. However sea level changes and strong currents may occur along all coasts that could be a hazard to swimmers and boaters as well as to persons near the shore at beaches and in harbors and marinas.

The threat may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival, which is expected at 3:11 a.m. HST on Thursday, Sept. 17.

Officials say warning sirens will not sound and evacuations are not necessary, but people are urged to stay off the beach and out of the water as conditions could be dangerous.

Click here for a complete list of closures and cancellations due to the tsunami advisory.

Special Programming Note: KHON2’s Wake Up 2day will start at 3 a.m. Thursday. Tune in or watch via live stream for the very latest.

An earthquake has occurred with these preliminary parameters:

  • ORIGIN TIME – 1254 PM HST 16 SEP 2015

hawaii.TSUHWX.2015.09.16.2309 REV

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center previously issued a tsunami watch, which means a tsunami is possible. A tsunami advisory, which was issued at 3:23 p.m., replaced the watch and clarifies the threat level for Hawaii.

In this case, we now know a major tsunami is not expected, however, Hawaii could experience sea level changes and strong currents. This means people are urged to stay away from shorelines, harbors and marinas.

Gerard Fryer with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says maximum wave heights could get up to slightly more than three feet, or one meter, with possible flooding in areas like Wailoa Small Boat Harbor in Hilo.

“The watch, which is what we’re in until just now that’s basically a head’s up that something’s happening and we’d like you to pay attention,” he explained. “A watch always is replaced by some other product, like a warning or maybe a cancellation. A warning means you’ve got to evacuate. An advisory means you don’t have to evacuate. The sirens will not sound, but it means just stay off the beach and out of the water.”

Fryer says the tsunami would look like a rapidly rising tide rather than a wave. “The ordinary surfing waves you see at the beach would be like 20 seconds from one wave to the next. A tsunami tends to be 20 minutes, so a three-foot high tsuanmi means the water is going to rise up and stay there for several minutes before going away.”

“There will be waves traveling between the islands once the tsunami hits the state. They’ll travel back and forth between the island for another couple of hours, so that’s our biggest concern,” said Maj. Gen. Joe Logan, state adjutant general and director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Geologist Chip McCreery from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says readings in the South Pacific can help solidify the forecast for Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific.

“That reading in Easter Island, which was an amplitude of about 0.8 meters or a little less than three feet, was about the amplitude we expected for Easter Island,” he said. “It’s another small piece of evidence that is giving us confidence that our forecast for Hawaii is in the right range.”

waikiki at night
Waikiki Beach

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says the most important message is for everyone to stay out of the ocean from 3-7 a.m. Thursday. While there are no plans to close roads near the shoreline overnight, Hanauma Bay will be closed as a precaution.

“We’ve seen from past experience from previous tsunami events that with even limited wave action, it moves back and forth between the walls of the bay, bounces up and down and of course, you’ve got the reef with water on the inside and outside,” he said. “We don’t want anyone to be hurt so we’re going to be announcing the closure right now so that people tomorrow don’t show up and wonder how come I can’t get down to the bay.”

Waikiki was quiet Wednesday night with a few people on the beach. Police officers will patrol beaches to make sure tourists don’t go in the water.

Lifeguards will be on duty starting at 6 a.m. and everyone is asked to check with lifeguards first before going into the water at any beach all day Thursday.

“In Waikiki, all that water coming in towards the land has to go back out and so it really does cause a strong current,” said acting Chief Kevin Allan, Honolulu’s Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division. “So we just really want to keep people safe and let them know that keep an eye on the water. Look at it before you go out and wait for the lifeguards to come on, and when we look at it and see that it’s safe, we’ll make sure everybody knows about it.”

Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. says the county’s Emergency Operations Center was activated and officials will be monitoring conditions through the night.

“We are doing a monitoring, kind of standby. I know if anything happens, it will be not as effective to cause any type of closures,” he told KHON2. “We are just standing by, but we really feel comfortable where we are at with the information we just got.”

Boaters are also urged to prepare.

“Go ahead and relax your lines and do those things pertinent to make sure that your boat doesn’t affect the piers and those things that they’re attached to,” said Vern Miyagi, administrator, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

The following are estimated tsunami arrival times for various locations across the state of Hawaii.

Hilo, Big Island 3:11 a.m.
Milolii, Big Island 3:14 a.m.
Keahou, Big Island 3:18 a.m.
Honokohau, Big Island 3:19 a.m.
Kailua-Kona, Big Island 3:19 a.m.
Hana, Maui 3:20 a.m.
Mahukona, Big Island 3:21 a.m.
Kawaihae, Big Island 3:26 a.m.
Kahului, Maui 3:26 a.m.
Kalaupapa, Molokai 3:27 a.m.
Lahaina, Maui 3:31 a.m.
Kihei, Maui 3:32 a.m.
Kaumalapau, Lanai 3:34 a.m.
Mokuoloe, Oahu 3:38 a.m.
Makapuu, Oahu 3:38 a.m.
Kaunakakai, Molokai 3:39 a.m.
Barbers Pt, Oahu 3:40 a.m.
Honolulu, Oahu 3:41 a.m.
Waianae, Oahu 3:43 a.m.
Haleiwa, Oahu 3:44 a.m.
Nawiliwili, Kauai 3:46 a.m.
Hanalei, Kauai 3:49 a.m.
Kekaha, Kauai 3:55 a.m.
Puuwai, Niihau 3:58 a.m.

What is a Tsunami Watch?

A tsunami watch is issued to alert emergency management officials and the public of an event which may later impact the watch area. The watch area may be upgraded to a warning or canceled based on updated information and analysis. Therefore, emergency management officials and the public should prepare to take action. Watches are normally issued based on seismic information without confirmation that a destructive tsunami is underway.

What is a Tsunami Advisory?

A tsunami advisory is issued due to the threat of a potential tsunami which may produce strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or near the water. Coastal regions historically prone to damage due to strong currents induced by tsunamis are at the greatest risk. The threat may continue for several hours after the arrival of the initial wave, but significant widespread inundation is not expected for areas under an advisory. Appropriate actions to be taken by local officials may include closing beaches, evacuating harbors and marinas, and the repositioning of ships to deep waters when there is time to safely do so. Advisories are normally updated to continue the advisory, expand/contract affected areas, upgrade to a warning, or cancel the advisory.

What is a Tsunami Warning?

A tsunami warning is issued by PTWC when a potential tsunami with significant widespread inundation is imminent or expected. Warnings alert the public that widespread, dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful currents is possible and may continue for several hours after arrival of the initial wave. Warnings also alert emergency management officials to take action for the entire tsunami hazard zone. Appropriate actions to be taken by local officials may include the evacuation of low-lying coastal areas, and the repositioning of ships to deep waters when there is time to safely do so. Warnings may be updated, adjusted geographically, downgraded, or canceled. To provide the earliest possible alert, initial warnings are normally based only on seismic information.

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