Tsunami reaches Hawaii, waves smaller than projected

A tsunami generated by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile struck Hawaii Saturday, but an official with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) said the island chain “dodged a bullet” after smaller-than-expected waves were reported, CNN  said.

The PTWC lifted all tsunami warnings, watches, or advisories.

“The first waves of the tsunami were recorded on The Big Island around noon (5 p.m. ET), 16 hours after the Chilean temblor.

“Gauges showed water levels rising 3 feet in Hilo, and remaining at that level,” CNN said.


The map above shows an estimate of how long it might take for a tsunami to roll across the Pacific Ocean following the earthquake off the coast of Chile earlier today.

Map courtesy of NOAA

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center confirmed the tsunami reached Hawaii just after 11:30 a.m. local time, 4:30 p.m. ET, ABC World News reported.

“Initial reports indicate the waves have been smaller than expected, but officials are warning residents to remain on high alert. The tsunami is a series of waves that will continue to march toward Hawaii’s shores,” ABC said.

“This could be bigger but we don’t know yet,” said Nathan Becker of the PTWC, noting the first wave measured 1 meter, or roughly 3 feet. Later waves could be larger, he said.

Chile Earthquake Pictures: Quake Spurs Tsunami Threat

In the White House video below, President Obama talks about how he was briefed by his national security team on the steps that the U.S. is taking “to protect our own people, and to stand with our Chilean friends.”

“Early indications are that hundreds of lives have been lost in Chile, and the damage is severe.  On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the Chilean people,” Obama said. 

“The United States stands ready to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts, and we have resources that are positioned to deploy should the Chilean government ask for our help.  Chile is a close friend and partner of the United States, and I’ve reached out to President Bachelet to let her know that we will be there for her should the Chilean people need assistance, and our hearts go out to the families who may have lost loved ones.

“We’re also preparing for a tsunami that could reach American shores later today, particularly in Hawaii, American Samoa, and Guam.  A tsunami warning is in place, and people have been alerted to evacuate coastal areas.  I urge citizens to listen closely to the instructions of local officials, who will have the full support of the federal government as they prepare for a potential tsunami, and recover from any damage that may be caused.

“I also urge our citizens along the West Coast to be prepared as well, as there may be dangerous waves and currents throughout the day.  Again, the most important thing that you can do is to carefully heed the instructions of your state and local officials.


The map above shows a projection of energy intensity through the Pacific Ocean following the eaerthquake near Chile.

Map courtesy of NOAAA


The State of Hawaii posted a warning on its Web site, urging residents in evacuation zones to move to high ground.


Above: A severe tsunami warning for Hawaii was posted by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center hours after the earthquake off Chile.

Below: PTWC canceled all warnings and advisories after smaller-than-expected waves were reported in Hawaii.




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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn