The US West Coast braced Saturday for tsunami activity, including unpredictable currents, waves and tides that could endanger swimmers and boaters, after an undersea volcano erupted near the nation. of the Tongan Pacific.
The eruption sent tsunami waves crashing ashore in the small island nation of about 105,000 people, sending people to higher ground.
Meanwhile, a tsunami watch is in effect for Hawaii, Alaska and the US Pacific coast as officials urge people to avoid beaches and marinas on Saturday.
Dave Snider, tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said the advisory includes an unusually long stretch of coastline.
“I’m not sure when the last time was, but it’s really not an everyday experience,” he said. “I hope that raises the importance and gravity for our citizens.”
Beaches and piers have been closed in Southern California as a precaution due to possible strong rip currents. But the National Weather Service said there were “no significant concerns about flooding.”
West Coast officials warn residents to stay away from beaches
The National Weather Service offices in California said that beaches may be affected by several hours, starting Saturday morning.
The NWS warned people to avoid beaches, ports and marinas and not go to the shore to see the tsunami.
Many California beaches and piers closed Saturday morning, including Berkeley Marina.
Seismologist Lucy Jones also warned people in affected areas to stay away from beaches, adding that moving water has “high momentum” that can cause damage to port areas. But he said if people are more than three feet above sea level, the waves likely won’t affect them.
“Tsunamis are not a wave” she said on Twitter. “It’s more like splashing and that splashing can go on for a day. Just because the first wave is over, it’s not time to go see the beach.”
Satellite images show eruption in Tonga
Social media videos from Tonga showed large waves breaking on the shoreline and flowing around homes and buildings. The Tonga Meteorological Services said 2.7-foot waves were detected and issued a tsunami warning for the entire archipelago.
There were no immediate reports of injuries, although communications with Tonga remained cut for hours after the eruption. Police and army evacuated King Tupou VI of Tonga from his palace near the coast, the Islands Business news site reported.
In the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa, authorities have also issued warnings, telling people to avoid the coast due to strong currents and waves.
Satellite images showed the large eruption as a 3-mile-wide plume of ash and gas mushroomed about 12 miles above water. Scientists noticed large explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it began erupting on Friday.
Waves crash ashore in Hawaii
One-foot to 2.7-foot waves hit the Hawaiian coast, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported. The center said no damage was reported and only minor flooding.
The waves are just below the three-foot criteria for a more serious tsunami warning, Snider said. He said the area should expect waves and strong currents for many hours, and some marinas and harbors may experience flooding.
“The important thing here is that the first wave may not be the biggest,” he said. “We could see this play out for several hours. It looks like everything will stay below the warning level, but it’s hard to predict.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism