HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The City & County of Honolulu has updated its tsunami evacuation zone maps -- adding a second extended zone in case of an extreme tsunami. The change comes after scientists discovered evidence on Kauai that Hawaii has been hit by a tsunami as high as 30 feet before.
Corliss Smith-Tang has lived in Moiliili since 2003. She wasn't surprised to hear her neighborhood is now in the extreme tsunami evacuation zone, but she is worried.
"If that tsunami should come through Waikiki, we are definitely not prepared," Smith-Tang said.
The most recent Waikiki tsunami evacuation zone map from 2010 ends right above the Ala Wai, but under a worst case scenario the second zone extends to H-1. Officials say that's almost 2-3 times the depth.
"The significance of this particular scenario that we're looking at obviously it's high impact because of the depth of the potential evacuation requirements and potential damage, but very low frequency in terms of occurrence," said Melvin Kaku, the Dept. of Emergency Management Director.
Experts believe the chances a major earthquake of at least a magnitude 9 and likely from the Aleutian Islands could send a surge of water 30 feet high is about every 1,000 years.
"In any person's lifetime there's like a 5% chance this will happen,
so it's a low probability but it's high enough that we cannot ignore it," said Dr. Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Hawai'i's deadliest tsunami in modern history came from the same area in 1946 -- an 8.1 magnitude event that killed 159 people.
According to officials the extension of the tsunami evacuation zone will not impact flood insurance rates or coverage at all. Officials also want to make sure residents know the evacuation process stays the same during a tsunami warning -- evacuate if you're in a zone, stay off the roads if you're not and go to higher ground if you're near the shoreline and feel an earthquake.
The City & County of Honolulu is hosting 16 informational meetings in O'ahu's coastal communities to review the new maps and answer questions from the public.
Representatives from the city's Department of Emergency Management will be on hand to present the new maps, discuss the implications for Oahu residents, and answer questions.