Hawaii and West Coast National Parks Brace for Tsunami Impacts


As Japan reeled from the shock of a magnitude 8.9 earthquake that triggered horrifically destructive tsunamis there, 50 countries prepared to absorb tsunami impacts on their own coasts. Here in America, coastal national parks in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and northern California were in the bullseye.

The strongest earthquake on record since that notoriously destructive Indonesia earthquake/tsunami in 2004 sent massive amounts of wave energy coursing across the Pacific Basin at jet plane speed. Coastal communities in its path were left to brace for tsunamis that could range from scarcely noticeable to potentially catastrophic.

High anxiety prevailed in Hawaii, where a full coastal evacuation was ordered. The first tsunami arrived at about 3:30 a.m. local time (8:30 am EDT). Hawaii was in the highest-energy zone, where tsunamis of unusual strength were most likely to occur. Because tsunamis pack so much energy, even a five-or six-foot wave sweeping ashore can kill people and cause enormous property damage up to several miles inland.

All seven of Hawaii's national parks, including Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Haleakala National Park, are tsunami-vulnerable.

Alaska is not in the direct path of the wave energy moving across the Pacific, but some coastal areas could be affected significantly.

In the Lower 48, tsunami warnings were issued for the West Coast from the northern border of Washington southward to Point Conception, California (with advisories extending to the southern California coast). Initial estimates projected that the first tsunamis would arrive along the Washington-Oregon-northern California coast as early as 7:15 a.m. local.

Crescent City, California, which took a heavy tsunami hit (with loss of life) from the 1964 Alaska quake, is an especially vulnerable location because the unique configuration of the shoreline there tends to magnify tsunami effects. Redwood National and State Parks, which has its headquarters in Crescent City, was the first unit of the National Park System to be certified as tsunami-ready.

Comments

Bob, you're up early and working!

I'm a member of the Early Riser Brigade, Steve. If I'm not out of bed by 4:30 or 5:00, the day feels pretty much ruined.

I have a friend onsite in Emergency Operations in Crescent City and they are taking the threat EXTREMELY serious.

I'll try to get photos at Cabrillo NM in a couple of minutes, but be prepared for them to be underwhelming. The wave will arrive ~15 minutes after low tide (+1.0) and regular surf is only 2-3'. Point Loma protects San Diego Bay pretty well from tsunami waves coming from the northwest (versus captured & funneled the wave from Chile last time).

Nothing visible here at Cabrillo NM, even on the west-facing tide pools. I expect the same was true for Channel Islands & Point Reyes.

I hope Redwood, Ebey's, Glacier Bay, Aniakchak, and the rest in Alaska are ok.

Here in Alaska, we got the tsunami advisory over the net, the local radio, and a pre-dawn phone call from my mother-in-law, but no problems.

I think Olympic NP was also in the warning area, as would be parts of Golden Gate NRA.

In the Lower 48, the tsunami warning included shoreline areas along the entire West Coast from the Canadian border southward to Point Conception (Santa Barbara County) on California's Central Coast. That would include Olympic National Park on the Washington coast and Golden Gate National Recreation Area in and near San Francisco.

I just saw in the Samoa News that American Samoa, including the National Park of American Samoa [NPSA] has had their tsunami warning lifted. Earlier, per the online edition of Samoa News, many of the people in the lowlands like Pago Pago and Leone - hard hit by the 2009 tsunami - were moving to higher ground and fishing ships were standing offshore watching for high water.

This is a relief, as recovery efforts at NPSA and throughout the territory are still continuing from the 2009 disaster.