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April is Tsunami Awareness Month in Hawaii

By Staff | Apr 11, 2019

The devastating 9.0 earthquake that occurred on March 10, 2011 near the east coast of Honshu, Japan, generated a tsunami that caused damage and coastal flooding on Maui. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported a two-foot wave in Lahaina and a six-foot wave in Kahului on the morning of March 11. At Lahaina Harbor (pictured), dramatic tidal surges damaged boats and wooden walkways in the harbor.

HONOLULU – The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) is encouraging the public to take tsunami preparedness into their own hands this April during Tsunami Awareness Month.

Over 70 years ago, on April 1, 1946, one of the deadliest tsunamis to ever hit Hawaii caused widespread devastation on all islands. Generated by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands, the massive tsunami took 159 lives and caused more than $26 million in damage. April was chosen as Tsunami Awareness Month to honor and remember the lives lost in all tsunamis that hit the state.

Due to Hawaii’s location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we are extremely vulnerable to the threat of tsunamis. Distantly generated tsunamis can reach Hawaii within several hours and are triggered by earthquakes that take place along the Ring of Fire that circles the Pacific Rim.

Locally generated tsunamis are caused by earthquakes or volcanic activity that occur in or near the Hawaiian Islands and can make landfall in a matter of minutes.

“We cannot stress how important it is that residents be prepared for a possible tsunami that can strike at any time,” said Tom Travis, administrator of emergency management. “Being aware of potential hazards and knowing how to be notified of an impending catastrophe is key to surviving a disaster. Just as imperative are emergency preparedness kits to be used in the aftermath period as well as the information on knowing how to evacuate and find shelter during a catastrophic event. A tsunami cannot be outrun.”

For distantly generated tsunamis, outdoor warning sirens will sound statewide. For locally generated tsunamis, however, there may not be enough time to sound sirens. If you are near the ocean when an earthquake takes place, immediately move to higher ground. Upon hearing any warning sirens, the public should tune immediately to a radio or television for updates and the latest information.

Additionally, everyone should be able to recognize the natural warning signs that a tsunami may be imminent. Signs include rapidly rising or receding water from the ocean, the sound of a locomotive or jet plane coming from the ocean, and empty beaches.

People located within a tsunami evacuation zone should quickly move to higher ground or inland until they are at least 100 feet above sea level, while avoiding steep cliffs and watching for falling rocks. To find out if you live, work or play within a tsunami evacuation zone, enter your address into the Tsunami Evacuation Zone Map Viewer on HI-EMA’s website at www.ready.hawaii.gov or turn to the disaster preparedness pages in your local telephone book.