Ocean safety warns beachgoers to stay off the beach, out of the water

Saira Bahl
Saira Bahl
Peter Levshin
Peter Levshin

By Leland Kim - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) -  The tsunami watch quickly turned into a tsunami warning by late Tuesday morning.

Experts feared the 8.0-magnitude Samoa earthquake could generate unpredictable waves on our shores, but most people at the beach didn't notice anything unusual.

A calm, warm afternoon greets sun worshippers at Waikiki Beach.  Many came thousands of miles ...

"We don't have this in Canada," said Saira Bahl, who is visiting from Toronto. "It's a lot colder."

... to be here.

They wanted to escape to paradise.

"The water's warm," said Bahl. "It's beautiful. It's clear. It's everything I expected it to be."

Mother Nature threatened to rain on their vacation.  Ocean safety experts initially predicted a tsunami to hit Hawaii after a magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck American Samoa.

"It tells us the water is a bit scarier than I thought it would be," said Bahl.

By midday in Waikiki, no sign of anything unusual. Folks were relaxing on the beach and enjoying themselves in the ocean.

But just before two ....

"The public is strongly advised to stay out of the water," said an ocean safety official through a bullhorn as he was driving along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki.

Warnings on the road ....

"Just so you know, there's a strong advisory to stay off the beach and out of the water," said an HPD officer to a group of beachgoers.

... and on the beach, just in case Mother Nature pulls out a surprise attack.

"If you're going to be in a tsunami, you want to be here in the United States because if you're in Indonesia or Thailand, there's no early warning system in place," said Peter Levshin, an Australian native who lives in Los Angeles.  "So if a tsunami is going to hit, you wouldn't know about it."

He was in Indonesia following the devastating tsunami in 2004.

"Just devastating," said Levshin. "The amount of tragedy and death because people were not prepared. A) people could not swim, people couldn't get medical services quick enough after the tsunami had hit."

Although the threat of a possible tsunami shattered their peaceful mood ...

"That's what we were surprised by that we got a warning," said Bahl.

... they're grateful they weren't caught off guard.

"So it makes us feel better that we got a warning, and not ..." said Bahl, trailing off.  "Hopefully it is just a warning."

Again, the advisory to stay out of the water and away from shorelines is in effect until 7 pm Tuesday.  It's a precautionary measure so ocean safety won't have to evacuate thousands of people who may be stuck along the coastal regions.