Tsunami surges biggest on Hawaii Island; Hanauma Bay to remain closed Friday

Tsunami surges biggest on Hawaii Island; Hanauma Bay to remain closed Friday

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tsunami surge caused by the earthquake off Chile caused some minor changes in the ocean levels around Hawaii but officials canceled a tsunami advisory Thursday morning.

The biggest tsunami-generated waves hit Hawaii Island beginning just after 3 a.m. The ocean was rapidly flowing under the pedestrian bridge at Coconut Island in Hilo just after 6 a.m. The sea level rose between two and three feet above normal in and around Hilo.

On Oahu and Kauai, waves were just a few inches above normal while Maui saw a tsunami surge of about two feet.  There were no reports of flooding or damage because of the tsunami surge.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center canceled its tsunami advisory at 7:33 a.m. Thursday, ""Based on the fact that the wave levels continue to diminish and are below advisory threshold," said Chip McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

"Events like these serve as a reminder to us that this state is vulnerable to tsunamis. We're happy that this was not a big event, but stay prepared," McCreery said.

State boat harbors were not closed and there were no reports of damage to docks, boats, ships or other water craft, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Officials warned people to stay out of the water from 3 to 7 a.m. Thursday because of the higher-than-normal surges. But Hawaii News Now found plenty of surfers in the water at Waikiki who did not heed those warnings during those hours.

At Ala Moana Beach Park, the warning did not stop surfers from enjoying their "dawn patrol" ritual long before the all-clear was given.  There were no reports of swimmers in distress or water rescues because of the tsunami surge.

"There could still be some areas where they may want to wait a little bit longer.  We know the example of Hanauma Bay sometimes continues to slosh around after one of these events," McCreery said.

The city closed Hanauma Bay Thursday as a precaution -- but the upper section remained open for sightseers. Would-be snorkelers were not allowed in the water.

"I guess I was a little disappointed because I was going to go snorkeling," said Chris Florian, a visitor from Houston, Texas. "But I suppose I understand because there might be a big tsunami wave out there that might crush us.  So it's important to be able to be safe."

Jason Beers, who just moved to Pearl City two months ago from New York, was also surprised that Hanauma Bay was closed.

"I got the alerts about the tsunami but I take them about as seriously as I get the hourly flooding warnings that we get on our phones," Beers said. "And I'd heard that the nature of the currents was that the waves weren't going to be that bad, so I thought it would be alright.  And then we got there and found out not so much."

On Thursday, city officials announced Hanauma Bay will remain closed Friday, September 18 as crews continue to asses the possibility of hazardous currents. It is unclear if the bay will be reopened to snorkelers by the weekend.

Authorities did not evacuate any areas because of the tsunami and warning sirens were not sounded.

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