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Tsunami watch canceled for Hawaii following large earthquake off New Zealand

Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 6:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A tsunami watch for Hawaii has been canceled after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center determined a strong quake off New Zealand posed no threat to the islands.

The 8.1-magnitude tremor struck near the Kermadec Islands region around 9:30 a.m. Hawaii time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued the watch shortly after the quake and it was lifted about 12:20 p.m. after authorities confirmed it did not trigger dangerous waves that could impact Hawaii.

As a precaution, county and state beach parks in West Hawaii were closed.

After the watch was lifted, Gov. David Ige tweeted that the episode was a “good reminder to stay vigilant.” He asked residents to read up on how they can prepare for a tsunami. “Thank you to our citizens for your patience as PTWC expertly evaluated the threat level to our islands,.”

Authorities said the watch lasted so long ― some 2 1/2 hours ― because two tide gauges closest to the quake’s epicenter stopped transmitting data. It’s believed they were damaged in the quake.

“For the most part we have not had problems with gauges being knocked offline but in the most extreme, most strongest earthquakes it certainly has happened,” said Dr. Laura Kong, director of the International Tsunami Information Center.

As with the March 2011, 9.0-magnitude earthquake off Japan that triggered catastrophic tsunami waves across the Pacific. Damage to Hawaii homes, hotels and harbors was estimated at $30 million.

The earthquake that triggered Thursday’s watch was the third to strike the region in a span of six hours.

[Related coverage: Powerful quake hits off New Zealand, prompting evacuations]

Around 7:40 a.m., another quake, measured at a magnitude of 7.4, also struck near the Kermadec Islands. And a 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck northeast of Gisborne, New Zealand around 3:30 a.m.

That temblor measured at an initial magnitude of 7.3 but was later downgraded to 6.9.

The USGS said the 8.1- and 7.4-magnitude quakes, which happened two hours apart, were related.

This story may be updated.

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