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Little Change in Hawaii Surf Despite Tsunami Advisory

  • Reuters

Hawaii residents were urged to stay clear of beaches and avoid swimming in the ocean as a precaution on Wednesday, though little change in the surf was measured in the island chain from an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Chile.

A tsunami advisory issued for the state by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center was expected to remain posted until 8 a.m. local time [2 p.m. ET], with most beaches around the islands closed until noon because of potentially dangerous currents.

Shelly Kunishige a spokeswoman with Hawaii State Civil Defense said no inland flooding was expected, no evacuations were ordered, and officials had received no reports of tidal damage.

A small-craft advisory unrelated to the tsunami alert also was in effect after the recent passage of some stormy weather in the islands, she said. Boaters were urged to exercise extra caution as they moved in and out of harbors.

The first waves believed to have been generated by the Chilean quake arrived on the island of Hawaii, the largest in the chain, on schedule at 3:24 a.m. local time [0924 EDT/1324 GMT] with little or no effect on the surf, said Kunishige.

Surf measurements of 1.7 feet were recorded at Kahului on the island of Maui and of 1.9 feet at Hilo on the Big Island, but those “aren't really impressive in terms of wave height,” said Kunishige.

On the popular Waikiki beach in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, waves were spotted at about 1.5 feet [45 centimeters], a normal height for the area, she said.

Larger surf and strong currents were a possibility as wave energy from the earthquake off Chile's northern coast continued to arrive through the morning, experts said.

“We're sure the waves are not going to be large enough to cause any flooding,” Gerard Fryer, senior geophysicist for the center, told reporters late on Tuesday when the advisory was issued.

An advisory is less significant than a tsunami warning, which would be prompted by expectations of widespread flooding.

In Chile, six people have died following the massive quake that struck the north of the Andean country, according to Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake generated a large tsunami, with the biggest sea wave reported at more than seven feet. The Chilean navy said the first big wave hit the country's coast within 45 minutes of the earthquake.

The advisory coincided with the April 1 anniversary of a 1946 tsunami, the deadliest recorded in the islands' history, which killed 159 people, mainly at Hilo.