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Hawaii tsunami: Smaller waves than predicted after Canada quake

Hawaii tsunami: Initial tsunami waves are small. But Hawaii residents got a good test of tsunami preparedness in the wake of Saturday's magnitude 7.7 earthquake off Canada.

By Mark Thiessen and Oskar GarciaAssociated Press / October 28, 2012

US Geological Survey map of the magnitude 7.7 earthquake that struck near the Queen Charlotte Islands Saturday evening.

USGS

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Honolulu

The first waves of a tsunami hitting Hawaii on Saturday night were smaller than expected, roughly three hours after evacuations were ordered for coastal areas threatened after a powerful earthquake struck off Canada.

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Gerard Fryer, a geologist tracking the tsunami for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said the largest wave in the first 45 minutes of the tsunami was measured in Maui at more than 5 feet, about 2 feet higher than normal sea levels.

State and local officials warned residents and tourists not to go back to inundation zones until an all-clear is given, though no major damage was reported.

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At first, officials said Hawaii wasn't in any danger of a tsunami after the 7.7-magnitude earthquake rattled the western coast of North America Saturday night, sparking tsunami warnings for southern Alaska and western Canada.

Later, officials issued a warning for Hawaii as well, saying there had been a change in sea readings. About the same time, a tsunami advisory was issued for a 450-mile stretch of U.S. coast running from north of San Francisco to central Oregon.

A small tsunami created by the quake was barely noticeable in Craig, Alaska, where the first wave or surge was recorded Saturday night.

Fryer said it could take several hours for the danger to pass in Hawaii, especially if the waves get bigger.

"It's beginning to look like the evacuation may not have been necessary," Fryer said.

The National Weather Service said there were reports of water quickly receding in bays, including Hilo Bay on the Big Island.

The warning in Hawaii spurred residents to stock up on essentials at gas stations and grocery stores and sent tourists in beachside hotels to higher floors in their buildings. Bus service into Waikiki was cut off an hour before the first waves, and police in downtown Honolulu shut down a Halloween block party.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie proclaimed an emergency, mobilizing extra safety measures.

While television traffic cameras showed onlookers at the beach in Waikiki, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle warned people to stay away from the surf for several days.

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