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Clean-up efforts underway following tsunami surge triggered by Tonga eruption

Around 3 a.m. Saturday, Vera Cruz ventured down to the shore to assess the damage — where he...
Around 3 a.m. Saturday, Vera Cruz ventured down to the shore to assess the damage — where he says water had risen some 3 to 4 feet.(NICOLA CHING)
Published: Jan. 15, 2022 at 3:59 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 16, 2022 at 12:14 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - While a tsunami advisory has been canceled for Hawaii, people across the islands are now cleaning up the mess left behind by wave surges triggered by a large eruption in Tonga.

Some of the most visible effects were seen on Hawaii Island, where a regatta that was planned for high school canoe clubs in Kailua-Kona had to be canceled. Other clubs were hit as well.

“The pier was pretty much underwater, canoes were floating around and beach chairs and cushions were in the bay,” said Doug Vera Cruz, president of Kai Opua Canoe Club.

“Some of our equipment was floating in water and was found in the cul-de-sac.”

Around 3 a.m. Saturday, Vera Cruz ventured down to the shore to assess the damage — where he said water had risen 3 to 4 feet.

“In our canoe area, we have a rock wall. We have a water line that was about 2 feet up the rock wall, and we are about 3 feet above the sea level,” he said.

Vera Cruz said the damage was mostly minor, and he is grateful no one was hurt.

“It was scattered everywhere piled up on top of each other, wrapped around the coconut trees, stacked up on the rock walls,” said Vera Cruz. “There was another canoe club, Kona Athletic, they had canoes down there and they sustained pretty heavy structural damage.”

On Lanai, the surge was strong enough to jostle several boats out of the water. Most eventually went back to their dock positions at Manele Harbor, but not Jay Margulies’ boat.

A boat is stuck on a pier at Manele Harbor on Lanai.
A boat is stuck on a pier at Manele Harbor on Lanai.(KEVIN STORY)

“It wasn’t until I woke up around 7, and I checked my phone. I saw a text from the harbor master with some pictures showing my boat up on the dock and then I rushed down here,” Margulies said.

The boat, a Boston whaler, is built sturdy and should be fine, but getting it back into the water will be a challenge.

“From what we can tell there is absolutely no damage to the boat at this point, and we are hopeful on Tuesday we can get one of the large cranes here on the island for construction to come down and help us to lift it up and put it on our trailer,” Margulies said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warming Center said tide gauges off Hawaii reported peak wave amplitudes Saturday morning of 2.7 feet at Hanalei and Kahului.

Signs of the surge were still visible late-Saturday morning and as the effects of this powerful phenomenon subside many are asking why it took so long for Hawaii to go under a tsunami advisory.

“The volcano caused tsunami is not the normal type of tsunami that we analyze at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center,” said Chip McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

He said the tsunami they normally analyze are from large earthquakes — and they have a wealth of tools to do that — but in this case, a tsunami was triggered by an underwater volcanic eruption.

“We had no idea because we did not have information to constrain the source,” McCreery said. “We didn’t know how big the explosion was, what kind of mass of material went on into the sea.”

Meanwhile, unusual currents are still being reported statewide, forecasters urge the public to be cautious if you’re heading out into the ocean.

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