Experts: High waves that flooded parts of Kona not tsunami from earthquake

Experts: High waves that flooded parts of Kona not tsunami from earthquake
Published: Jun. 5, 2013 at 9:37 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 5, 2013 at 10:02 PM HST
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KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - High waves that flooded part of the Kona coastline Tuesday were not the result of any tsunami generated by the earthquake that struck off Hawaii Island's Southeast side about the same time, experts said.

Kona resident Kawai Nuewa took video of the high waves coming ashore and flooding the Old Kona Airport park and parking lot Tuesday afternoon.  Hawaii County Civil Defense closed the park by 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

At the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center Wednesday, Senior Geophysicist Gerard Fryer had this simple assessment: "Everything fits.  It's not a tsunami."

There was already a high surf advisory in effect with high waves hitting the Kona shores Tuesday afternoon. Coincidentally, the quake struck at 2:13 p.m., the same time the nearest tide gauge a mile and a half away at Honokohau recorded its highest waves.

"We know this is not a tsunami.  It's just big waves at the peak of the high tide," Fryer said.

Kona resident I'an Shortridge told Hawaii News Now he snapped photos of the flooded conditions at the Old Kona Airport park and its parking lot at 1:08 p.m., more than an hour before the quake hit at 2:13 p.m.

"We weren't going to get a tsunami directly from that earthquake because it was on the other side of the island and the earthquake was too small," Fryer said.

If there was a tsunami, Fryer said he would have expected more widespread effects at other shorelines of Hawaii Island, especially on the Southeast side near Ka'u and Naalehu closer to where the quake occurred.  And that did not happen.

"The other thing is a tsunami, the waves typically are much further apart than the waves in that video," Fryer said.  "Those waves come in, go out.  The next one comes in.  A tsunami tends to come in and stay and stay and stay and drains away."

Michael Cantin, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Honolulu, said, "It is probably that the current high surf combined with the high tide led to some wave run-up and over-wash of the area."

The "unique direction" of the high waves' swells were to blame for the inundation in the Kona area, not a tsunami, said Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira.

The 5.3 earthquake was felt on Hawaii island and as far away as Kailua and Pauoa on Oahu.

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