Yesterday’s tsunami scare lasted for about 12 hours and proves that both the government and residents got serious about disaster preparedness after the Sept. 29 earthquake and tsunami that caused such death and destruction here in the territory, in Samoa and also in Tonga.
While there is still no siren system in place, police and first responders were out in the villages warning of a tsunami generated by the 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile early Saturday, collapsing buildings, killing at least 700 people and downing phone lines.
Radio stations let residents know that the government had issued a statement around 1 a.m. Saturday morning calling on people in shoreline villages to move to higher ground as the territory prepared for an estimated 8:51 a.m. arrival time for the tsunami.
The American Samoa Power Authority informed customers that they would be turning off the power in threatened areas at about 7:30 a.m. in order prevent damage to equipment and alleviate safety hazards from downed lines.
The all clear for American Samoa was called at about 12:45 p.m. local time on Saturday.
There were no immediate reports of widespread damage, injuries or deaths in the U.S. or in the Pacific islands, but a tsunami that swamped a village on an island off Chile killed at least five people and left 11 missing, according to Associated Press.
AP reports in Hawaii, water began pulling away from shore off Hilo Bay on the Big Island just before noon, exposing reefs and sending dark streaks of muddy, sandy water offshore. Waves later washed over Coconut Island, a small park off Hilo's coast.
The tsunami was causing a series of surges that were about 20 minutes apart, and the waves arrived later and smaller than originally predicted. The highest wave at Hilo measured 5.5 feet (1.7 meters) high, while Maui saw some as high as 2 meters (6.5 feet).
In American Samoa the weather service measurements showed wave fluctuation in 12 minute intervals in Pago Pago harbor for several hours.
The tsunami caused by Chile's devastating earthquake Saturday wasn't as dangerous or big as experts first feared.
In Japan, the biggest wave hit the northern island of Hokkaido. There were no immediate reports of damage from the four-foot (1.2-meter) wave, though some piers were briefly flooded.
As it crossed the Pacific, the tsunami dealt populated areas - including the territory of American Samoa and the U.S. state of Hawaii - only a glancing blow.
The tsunami raised fears Pacific nations could suffer from disastrous waves like those that killed 230,000 people around the Indian Ocean in December 2004, which happened with little-to-no warning and much confusion about the impending waves.
Officials said the opposite occurred after the Chile quake: They overstated their predictions of the size of the waves and the threat.
"We expected the waves to be bigger in Hawaii, maybe about 50 percent bigger than they actually were," said Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist for the warning center. "We'll be looking at that."
Besides the panic buying, and hoarding, of food and supplies that caused some supermarkets to place limits on staples like Spam - and long lines as gas stations - officials in Hawaii said everything went as planned.
"I hope everyone learned from this for next time, and there will be a next time," Fryer said.
Contributing to this report: Associated Press
Posted on Sun, February 28, 2010
by Associated Press filed under