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Tsunami Warning Issued for Hawaii
Aired October 28, 2012 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Natalie Allen from CNN Center and here's the story that we're following this hour.
People in Hawaii are preparing for a tsunami that is set to make landfall there within the next half hour. Thousands of people are evacuating low-lying areas.
It's a big night in Hawaii. It's about 10:00 there. And many people come to Hawaii to have Halloween parties. We're told one party had 15,000 people just three blocks from the coast. So traffic is backed up as people are trying to get out of the way of this tsunami that was generated by an earthquake off the western coast of Canada that had a magnitude 7.7. They've only had about an hour to prepare to get people to higher ground.
Let's check in with Karen Maginnis, more about what Hawaii can expect as far as this wave and the size of this wave -- Karen.
KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, they are anticipating between one and two meter rise of the water. Now initially that water may move back a little bit. You think, well, we're done with it. Not the case. Many people in Hawaii are very familiar with what happens right before the onset of a tsunami. And that initial wave may not be the biggest. So coming up in less than 28 minutes, we're expecting that first wave to move onshore.
Just wanted to give you a little primer. Well, Natalie, I think we're going to go back to you for some more information.
ALLEN: OK, we'll check back in with you. Right now we have someone on the phone, Karen, we want to talk with. One of our CNN personnel, Augie Martin, happens to be on vacation in Hawaii.
Augie, how's your vacation going tonight?
AUGIE MARTIN, CNN PRODUCER: Well, it's great, apart from the rhythmic blaring of the tsunami sirens you wouldn't think anything is out of the ordinary. On top of our hotel, actually, overlooking a beautiful crescent beach under an almost full moon, and the waves don't look anything different than they did today when the sun was up. So apart from the sirens going off routinely, there's not too much out of the ordinary here, at least at my hotel.
ALLEN: Are you on Oahu? MARTIN: No, I'm on the big island of Hawaii, the westernmost of the Hawaiian islands. I'm actually on the eastern side of it. But, no, everybody here is fairly up to date on, you know, the latest with the tsunami. But the hotel staff seems very relaxed about it for the most part. And have been informative. And the people that they do need to evacuate on the lower floors have done so. So it's all been very orderly. And there was a wedding party going on here as recently as about 30 minutes ago. So nothing too out of the ordinary, at least at this point.
ALLEN: Not yet. But in about 30 minutes you may be able to tell whether the tsunami wave is coming ashore. We're told that it's supposed to last for perhaps a few hours and high tide at 3:22 in the morning. But as you say, you're on a high level of a hotel.
From what you can tell you, Augie, have people pretty much cleared the streets and beaches?
MARTIN: You know, I'm actually about a mile from the main road here. And I can see, you know, law enforcement up on the road, that you can see they're flashing blue and red lights. And yes -- yes, some people have evacuated. But they assure us that as long as you're above the first floor floors of this hotel, which is eight floors tall that -- eight floors high, that you should be fine.
And I'm actually, as I say, on the roof of the hotel overlooking the beach. So there doesn't seem to be too much fear here. It's not -- at least where I am, it's not a long trek to get out of the tsunami zone. And, you know, it's very well marked. The Hawaiian authorities and civil defense here are well-prepared for this sort of thing. They deal with it somewhat frequently. And the protocol and the procedures they have in place are pretty well understood by the populace here.
ALLEN: Folks that have come to the hotel perhaps to stay at higher ground, do they know how long they may have to stay there as far as until they're given the all-clear? Have you been told how this will play out?
MARTIN: No, I'm not sure that they have. I'm not sure that anybody truly knows that, aside from that it could last for several hours. But, you know, the hotel staff has been informative. They said that the volume of the tsunami sirens will increase as the danger increases. And thus far they haven't increased in the volume of their sirens. So, so far, at least, you know, everybody seems to be fairly calm and prepared for whatever event may be coming our way.
ALLEN: And we were listening in to a local newscast on Oahu. And they were instructing people that they need to conserve water just in case. Have you heard anything about that where you are?
MARTIN: I have heard that over on Oahu. I have not heard that here. But that may -- that may as well be the case here. I just personally have not heard that.
ALLEN: All right. Augie Martin, we appreciate it. We know you're in the middle of your vacation. A little tsunami coming in. You're in a safe place there in your hotel on the big island. One of our CNN producers calling in.
We may talk with you again, Augie, as the tsunami comes ashore, thanks so much.
We want to go now to Shelly Kunishige. She is with the Hawaii State Civil Defense.
Shelly, what can you tell us about preparations and whether Hawaii, with less than 30 minutes to go here, has most of the people out of the area of impact?
SHELLY KUNISHIGE, HAWAII STATE CIVIL DEFENSE: Well, right now we're counting on our law enforcement officials and county civil defense to enact the evacuation. People are evacuating. Roads are somewhat congested but, you know, we're hoping that people continue to cooperate with our law enforcement officials.
ALLEN: Those roads that are congested, are they in a safe distance from the beach where people are trying to get out right now?
KUNISHIGE: Yes. They're in our main thoroughfares. But, you know, we didn't have as much lead time as we have had in previous tsunami warnings. And this is under the cover of night. So this may have slowed down the evacuation somewhat.
ALLEN: And could you be in a situation where this tsunami just less than 30 minutes away could come on ashore and there are still significant cars on the road?
KUNISHIGE: We are hoping that the word has gotten out enough that folks closest to the roads are -- closest to the evacuation zones, are already out of the evacuation zones. If not, we're just counting on our law enforcement officials and local civil defense.
ALLEN: What are you hearing -- we heard earlier that there -- the problem is that there are some people that didn't need to evacuate but are evacuating. So perhaps you're seeing more people on the roads trying to get to higher ground than you expected?
KUNISHIGE: That could be. A lot of folks, especially after the Tohoku event, you know, seeing the water going over six miles inland in Japan, have been a little bit more worried about our tsunami evacuation zones. However, they're based on the latest scientific data and we are very confident in them. But I do need to get going.
ALLEN: Oh, OK, all right. We appreciate your time. We know you're very busy, Shelly Kunishige with the State Civil Defense. Thank you very much.
Again, it looks like with just about 20 minutes to go until this wave is expected to hit Hawaii that there are still many cars on the road, and it's a congested situation. At least, we're getting that from Oahu. The people there on a busy Saturday night, many parties going on. You can expect it's been a little bit difficult to get them in their cars and get them away from the ocean and out of harm's way.
Let's go now to the mayor of Honolulu who's speaking live.
MAYOR PETER CARLISLE, HONOLULU: So assess your own situation and remember, you can, if necessary, get out of the car if there is an available way for you to get to higher ground quickly or vertical evacuation. Because of the amount of time that we've got left now that might be the wisest thing to do.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So in other words, and as I understand it, right, this sometimes means just going a block or two inland, right? I mean you could get out and pull it over and just walk?
CARLISLE: It could be next to a building that's open that you could get upstairs and very quickly. So those are the types of things that people should consider if they're stuck in their car. You have the option of considering that, we're not telling you what you need to do. But this is something that might be available to you. As -- and again, there might be some circumstances where riding it out in the car would make more sense. But if you have something that's available to you close by, that is something that you could consider to do, particularly, as a matter of fact specifically, if you're in an area that's close to the ocean.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What is the situation like on the roads right now?
CARLISLE: Obviously there's been a problem in some locations, they were still turning people into Waikiki which is an inundation zone. That's stopped right now so it looks like they've done that. But remember, we're pulling our people out right now, we're pulling the police out, everybody is getting out of there because we want them safe, too.
So you cannot rely on the police to be able to come and help you out of this situation. What you need to do is to make an assessment of your circumstances depending on where you are.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know of any -- going back in the last hour and a half or so, were there any contra flow that's being taken or heard a lot of people calling in radio stations saying, hey, why are contra flow Ft. Weaver Road and these other places? What were police doing to try to get people out of there fast enough?
CARLISLE: We'll give you a ramp-up after that later on. It's more important right now to worry about getting the things done that we need to do that are emerging and this thing is right now an emergency. Anybody still in an evacuation center, no matter what part of the island they are, they need to take steps for their immediate safety.
So what was done, all of those things, we will have a thorough wrap-up of that later on. Right now, the police are being pulled. The 10:00 siren was the last siren that you're going to hear. So it's critical for you to now get yourself in a position that you feel you're safest in.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about those people who are just refusing to leave, who are in those inundation zones after (INAUDIBLE)? CARLISLE: We are pulling our people out. We do not have the ability or the number of people to be able to go in there. We do not want our people hurt. So if people have decided to ignore the warnings or are unaware of them, we've done everything we can to get that information out, including people specifically going to areas where people have problems with disabilities. Then right now, if you cannot do anything else, there are not -- there is not going to be public safety people there to help you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Mayor. Anything else you want to get across?
CARLISLE: Well, this is obviously a very, very dangerous situation because how short the fuse is. So if you are a block or two from safety, you've got time, you can -- in theory, you've got as little as four minutes and as much as 20 to 25 minutes to get yourself out of a place that's not safe to a place that is safe. So do it now and don't -- right now, it's critical.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Mayor.
Obviously, a lot of people on one island trying to go one place, so go another and --
ALLEN: You just heard Peter Carlisle, the mayor of Honolulu, stressing the importance of people trying to get off the roads which we are told have been backed up because they've had such a short warning to evacuate and saying, if you need to get out of your cars and just start walking to get away from harm's way, they've already heard their last siren of the evening there in Hawaii and the tsunami is expected to come ashore in just about less than 15 minutes from now. We'll continue to follow it. We'll take a quick break.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: OK, now more outrageous campaign antics. So where Ann Coulter and Donald Trump leave off, Sarah Palin and John Sununu pick it up.
Palin wrote in her Facebook page that the president was shucking and jiving about Libya. She then later said, you know what, I wasn't -- it wasn't a derogatory thing. And for the record, she responded by saying, nothing racist about her comments, she believes.
Are we surprised? No. But we probably should be surprised. And then there's John Sununu.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN SUNUNU, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: And, frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for endorsing President Obama.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: What reason would that be?
SUNUNU: Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Ana, discuss.
ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, he has -- he has since walked it back and admitted that there are policy issues that Colin Powell is a friend of his. I think what he said was not the right thing to say. I don't think it was correct. I think Colin Powell is a very respected person.
LEMON: Look, Ana, Ana, Ana. Listen. Why is John Sununu, after all the things he says -- I'm just asking, and I am not a partisan person. People will say, oh my gosh, you're carrying water for Obama. I'm not. It doesn't matter to me. I'm a journalist. Or that you like -- you guys are -- TNN now, you're trying to get Mitt Romney elected president.
Neither of which is true. But why is John Sununu, a surrogate for the Romney campaign, when he says such outlandish you know what? Why?
NAVARRO: I don't know -- I don't why they would use him at this stage of the game, frankly. Because he is somebody that does not have much of a filter. And you know, we are at a stage of the campaign where, listen, Mitt Romney could win. He's actually doing very well.
LEMON: Absolutely. But John Sununu is not helping the case.
NAVARRO: We don't need -- we don't need any unforced errors. And I think that when you put John Sununu out there, he is a guy who says what he thinks. Sometimes it comes out wrong. He's got no filters. As I would say, you know what, get him off TV between now and November 6th.
LEMON: OK. Go ahead, go ahead, L.Z.
L.Z. GRANDERSON, SENIOR WRITER, ESPN: I mean we know why he's there. He's there because he speaks to a certain -- a number of people within the Romney base. He gets them fired up. It's the same reason why Bill Maher says the things that he says. It's to fire up a particular part of their base. John Sununu is a racist.
GRANDERSON: I'm just going to call it. I'm just going to say it.
ALLEN: -- 3:30 in the morning in Hawaii. All of the islands are at risk of this tsunami that was generated by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that hit off the western coast of Canada. The issue right now in Hawaii is they're about 15 minutes away from seeing this tsunami. And they have only had one hour's notice to evacuate. And it's Saturday night, it's a very busy night for parties, with Halloween coming as well. And some people are still stuck in their cars on the clogged roads. We just heard from the mayor a short while ago, Peter Carlisle. He was saying, if that's the case get out of your car and start walking to higher ground. Because he warned the people of Hawaii, at this point, they were pulling out the police from the low-lying areas to keep them safe and that if anyone wasn't evacuating or wasn't able to evacuate, there's nothing they can do now. There is no police that could come to their aid. So that's his message just a few minutes ago.
Of course, many people are in hotels. And that's where they need to be at a certain level in the hotel for safety.
Right. We were going to go with somebody in a hotel but now I'm told we've got another official on the line with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Sorry, sir, I didn't get your name, what was your name?
VICTOR SARDINA, PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER: Victor Sardina.
ALLEN: Victor Sardina. Victor, what can you tell us about this tsunami, what's expected in the next few minutes?
SARDINA: Well, actually, we are expecting it to hit Hawaii in roughly -- actually, less than 15 minutes now. It's actually 14 minutes away. So if you look at the orientation of the Hawaiian islands it's pretty much parallel to the west coast in terms of (INAUDIBLE) towns, let's say. So it's going to be almost simultaneous. It might be like a difference of plus/minus a couple of minutes in certain locations but it's going to hit Hawaii pretty much uniformly.
Right now we don't have an exact idea because it's almost impossible to gauge. We don't have any actual instrument that we could have measurement in between the west coast and Hawaii. So we're kind of blind in that sense. But we have measurements at other places and we have focused most. The data so far is consistent for some of the measurement we have in the west coast that's consistent with the results of the models. So we don't expect the focus to be way off or too far off from the actually measurement we're going to get in Hawaii.
One of the models we have running was provided to us by the Pacific Marina Environmental Lobby in Seattle, Washington. And for example, Crescent City, the model we present an 80-centimeter high wave. So the actual measurement that we have in Crescent City so far is 85 centimeters. So it's right on. So we don't expect that to change much for Hawaii. So those -- the locations that we usually call, the usual culprits because that place in Hawaii, Hilo, in the big island, Kahului, in Maui, and other places along the Hawaiian islands where usually you tend to have much higher run-ups in terms of the tsunami wave height because of the shape of the bay.
So those places we expect actually probably around three to six feet in Kahului. I guess in Kahului maybe a meter higher than that. But again this is a model. This is not a hard number. This is not an exact science. We don't have much data to work with.
ALLEN: Right. But you know that it's going to be hitting in less than 15 minutes now. The key here to talk about also, Victor, is this will be a sustained wave, is that what we understand? How long could the wave --
SARDINA: Yes, unfortunately, you know, in terms of the characteristics, the dynamic characteristic of the tsunami, we notice that the period in the near field, it was very short. In the order of 10, 15 minutes between successive waves. Remember, I want to remember, people, a tsunami is not one wave, it's a train -- it's a train of waves. Meaning that several waves in succession, and they keep coming. So when you go to the far field, meaning when it (INAUDIBLE) Hawaii, we expected between waves around 25 minutes between them.
So it's a relatively short period for a tsunami. That means it's not going to be as bad, for example, as Tohoku, Japan tsunami or anything like that, or the Chile tsunami. It's not something of that magnitude. But yes, you can have damage and you can have severe effects at several locations.
ALLEN: Well, it's good that you point that out. Because so many people remember the devastating tsunami of Indonesia just a few years ago. This isn't what they're expecting at all in Hawaii, as you say. Waves three to six feet is what they are thinking, that they will be coming ashore for some time?
SARDINA: Yes, but at the same time we didn't want to take the risk on something potentially damaging. And in fact we expect it to cause some damage, it's potentially damaging at several locations. Of course, we don't want something like that to get people completely unaware of what is going on. We don't want to take any chances when an event like this.
SARDINA: It's very unusual. This is the first-ever warning issued for an event in the west coast. And you look at the overall situation, there's no other place with warning, even the whole Pacific, there was never a warning for the Pacific. It's only Hawaii.
ALLEN: Right, right. Yes.
SARDINA: Because it's a very, very unusual situation that we're dealing with right now. With the main beam of energy or the front of the wave is heading right on, heads-on to Hawaii, it's going to hit Hawaii head-on. Most of the energy directed to Hawaii, that's what the model -- the models are telling us. And we have to confront that once it starts arriving. Then we will adjust the focus accordingly.
ALLEN: All right. We appreciate your information, Victor Sardina, for us with the Tsunami Warning Center. As he said, there are just certain warnings that have gone off that tell them that Hawaii is going to take a direct hit. Hawaii is the only place expected to get a direct hit from this tsunami, this wave that was created all the way up in Canada on the western coast of Canada. And it should be coming ashore just in a few minutes, about six or seven minutes is when it's expected to start to come ashore and it will be 10:28 p.m. on a Saturday night there in Hawaii and that's going to cause some headaches with the residents and the tourists that are there.
We have with us someone from a hotel now, Isaac Lapa, who's on Oahu.
Isaac, we're told you're at the Castle Waikiki Shore Hotel. Tell us about what's happened since you've heard the warning signs there this evening.
ISAAC LAPA, CASTLE WAIKIKI SHORE HOTEL: Hi, well, everything was going nice until we heard the sirens. I guess the people here are a little worried about it. But the best thing to do is just to calm everyone down and we've moved some of our guests on the lower floors to the higher floors. At the moment. So we're taking the precautions that we can to make sure everyone is safe and happy here in Waikiki.
ALLEN: How close is your hotel to the beach?
LAPA: We're right on the beach. So we have the front row, you know, action of, you know, seeing the tsunami coming in to us. So, yes, it's going to be a little exciting. Well, not too exciting.
ALLEN: Yes, well, it's going to be something. You're just not sure what.
LAPA: Right. But, yes, we're right on the beach. So we're able to see whatever's going on.
ALLEN: So are the beaches, I would say -- I would assume clear at this point?
LAPA: Oh, yes. There are -- the whole town of Waikiki right now is clear. It's like a ghost town here in Waikiki. There's a bunch of cars also that are stuck, but that their -- you know, people are just moving along. Hopefully they're going to be moving to higher ground.
ALLEN: So from where you are, you can tell that there's still cars stuck on the road?
LAPA: From where I'm at, I'm looking right now and I see there's no cars in my part of the road. So the police had already closed the roads down, so there's -- no one's coming into Waikiki. And I guess nobody can get out of Waikiki either.
ALLEN: How many people are in your hotel?
LAPA: Well, there's 160 units here. And we have a full house right now. So we manage a portion of this building. And I'd say, oh, I don't know. I imagine about 70 rooms so it's a whole bunch of people. ALLEN: And just -- you know, when people hear tsunami, you know, it can sound terrifying. They're expecting waves between three and seven feet. All of your folks are safe there on high ground. But what's some of the reactions you were getting from your guests when they first heard -- you're on vacation.
LAPA: I had one lady that was panicking a little bit too much, saying that it was 10 stories tall. Which of course, I had to calm her down with my charm, and say, you know, you know, that's bad information that you're getting. So -- and I had to tell her, you know, it's not that big of a wave. But still, you know, we have to take precautions. So just calm down, as long as you're on a higher floor, then you're OK. Which she was, she was on the 14th floor, so she wasn't going to get, you know, in danger at all but --
ALLEN: I'm certain that this did cause some just generalized anxiety among some people there.
LAPA: Oh, yes. It did, it did. But yes, our job is just to try to calm everyone down and make sure everyone is not panicking. That's one of the main things that people do at this kind of situation. That usually doesn't help the situation, you know. If they panic.
ALLEN: We're also told that many of you have been told to conserve water, not even flush toilets, just in case there's a water shortage. Have you heard that?
LAPA: That I did not hear, no.
ALLEN: And what about any police presence? The beaches are clear, no one's patrolling because it's not safe for anyone. Has everyone -- you describe it as a ghost town. Does it seem like everyone has cleared out, no blue blinking lights or anything?
LAPA: So far, from my point of view, I don't see any vehicles here at all. It's pretty clear.
ALLEN: So where you are, as far as your hotel goes, you're in a safe place?
LAPA: Where I am personally for me? I am on the first floor just waiting and making sure that everyone is up in their rooms and not outside. And then I'll be going up pretty soon.
ALLEN: All right.
LAPA: In a few minutes.
ALLEN: We hope so. Well, let us know if you start seeing signs of the tsunami. Perhaps we'll talk with you again. Thanks so much, Isaac. Isaac Lapa.
LAPA: You're welcome. Thank you.
ALLEN: With the Castle Waikiki Shore Hotel, making sure everyone there is safe and understanding that they've got it under control there.
Let's go back to Karen Maginnis at the World Weather Center to bring us up to date on what caused all of this and why Hawaii is the one place impacted with this. Seems about a couple of minutes before they might start seeing this wave come ashore to all of the islands.
MAGINNIS: Yes, it is going to be about another minute and a half before they're expecting the first wave from the tsunami. A couple of interesting things. First of all, what you're looking at is kind of the cause, and now the effect. The cause was that 7.7 magnitude earthquake off of one of those islands just off the coast of British Columbia. 7.7, moderately shallow. That energy is kind of -- replicates across the Pacific basin.
This is the Pacific basin, here are the Hawaiian islands. And this is the energy that is just kind of released from the depth of the ocean. You get the collision of the tectonic plates which produces that earthquake. And so that energy just kind of ripples across the Pacific basin. And what we heard from the Tsunami Warning Center head, he said this is the first time we've received a tsunami warning from the eastern Pacific. From the west coast of the United States.
Usually it comes from an Asian origin. So this is kind of a unique, kind of -- to understand real time what's going to happen, in this particular scenario, you may remember, Natalie, that about an hour after this earthquake happened, we weren't looking at tsunami warnings. There were some advisories. But now this warning for Hawaii, because they have this deep ocean assessment. They have the monitors across the Pacific. They saw some activity.
And so the observers said, we think something's going to happen here. So that's why they issued that tsunami warning. It is now 10:28 in Hawaii. All shores of all the islands of Hawaii are in danger for seeing some waves. That initial wave may not be the biggest wave. We could see a succession of waves before we see the main wave that will move across Hawaii. Could be one meter to two meters, Natalie.
ALLEN: OK, yes. We should know that very soon. Karen, thank you very much. That's such an interesting graphic showing the energy there.
So it is time right now that Hawaii will be seeing this tsunami come ashore. All the islands impacted. We're going to monitor it through our affiliate in Hawaii. Hawaii News Now, we're going to join their coverage for a few minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- kind of at this point anywhere, any time. In fact, HPD is telling people, if you're in an evacuation zone, still in your car, stuck in traffic, leave your car. Walk to high ground. It's time to head for high ground regardless. Just don't waste any more time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. And as we continue to keep our eye on these live pictures, we also have an important word from Kauai. Please note the King Kaumualii Elementary School holding area is full. People in the Lihue and Hanamaulu area should go to Wilcox Elementary School if you need to be in a refuge center.
We haven't gotten word of any refuge centers that are full here on Oahu but we will keep you updated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically just about every park or rec center on Oahu in a --
ALLEN: All right, this is Natalie Allen back at CNN center. We are still monitoring our affiliate there as we expect this tsunami to be coming ashore and impacting all islands right now for the Hawaiian islands. And at this point, I'm not sure what's generating this picture of the coast that we have. But we'll probably get more information on it.
At this point, they're hoping everyone is away from the beaches. Some people apparently were not able to get completely where they wanted to go. They were stuck in their car because of so many people trying to evacuate under a short time. We were also told that this is a big, big party evening in Hawaii. It's 10:30 at night there. A Saturday night, weddings held in Hawaii, and big Halloween parties apparently held in Hawaii.
One had 15,000 people attending just three blocks away from the beach, according to the editor of a local newspaper there. But at this point, if anyone is a tourist in these hotels that you can see there, they're on higher floors at the hotel. We just talked with the hotel manager there that said that he wasn't worried about the fact now that he's got everybody in higher levels. But did have somewhat nervous, some panicked tourists there who have never been in anything like this, you can imagine, and they weren't sure what to expect.
About 80,000 people, though, live in evacuation zones just on the island of Oahu. And they've had a lot of people to move out in a short period of time. As Karen Maginnis pointed out, our meteorologist, and we also talked with someone from the Tsunami Warning Center, Victor Sardina, who told us that this is very unusual that Hawaii is dead-center for a tsunami that's generated from the Eastern Pacific. This is the result of an earthquake that happened in western Canada, off the coast of Canada.
So we've been talking with officials there, trying to get people out of harm's way, trying to figure out what they're going to expect, a wave anywhere from three to seven feet that should be sustained for several hours, though. And we're also talking with people who happen to be in Hawaii at a time that the tsunami is coming ashore.
One of those people is one of our own CNN producers who's on vacation, Augie Martin. So we're interrupting his vacation to talk with us.
Augie, you were telling us you're on the big island and you're in a hotel on the roof. Are you seeing anything?
MARTIN: Yes, no -- nothing yet that would indicate any tsunamis coming ashore here. Anybody who's been on the beach in the past, you know, will know that waves simply come up to roughly around the same height. There haven't really been any changes in the last five or 10 minutes that I've noticed. Activity's picked up a little bit here since the last time I talked to you about 30 minutes ago. They've had some aircrafts that have been flying the coast with spotlights and blaring sirens of their own. And just a little more activity around my hotel in particular with people pulling stuff up of of the beach. But no, no visible signs of any tsunami waves yet that I can tell.
ALLEN: We're just talking with someone at a hotel in Oahu describing it as a ghost town around where he is. Other than some aircraft and warning helicopters, how would you describe the area around where you are on the big island?
MARTIN: Well, frankly, I'm, you know, in my own little area here in this hotel. And things here are relatively calm. Nobody seems too terribly concerned or worried about this impending tsunami. But I suspect things are a little bit different outside of the confines of this hotel. I can see, you know, lots of law enforcement vehicles with their flashing lights in the not-too-far-off -- not-too-far off, you know, along the main road here. But things here in our hotel, at least, are fairly calm and orderly. And nobody seems too overly, you know, concerned at this point.
ALLEN: Is everybody gathering together to try to see what may happen? Are you watching the local news?
MARTIN: There are a lot of people watching the local Hawaii news channels and there are lots of people, you know, with flash bulbs going off trying to take pictures, in vain, you know, of an impending tsunami wave. But no, there's not been one sort of central gathering point, at least as far as I can tell, you know. It is 10:30, I think, here at night. And you know, a lot of people are in their rooms. It's an eight-floor hotel where I am. So a lot of people, you know, are actually safe on the higher floors, or so we've been told, and they're just in their rooms.
ALLEN: How did you first find out about the tsunami warning and how long had you been in Hawaii trying to have a vacation before this interruption?
MARTIN: We've been here since Wednesday. And I had a little bit of advanced notice just because of our, you know, internal news gathering. But -- so when I saw the earthquake notification, I figured that just from, you know, past experience, that there was a good possibility that it may trigger one, and paid a little closer attention once I saw that initial e-mail.
But everybody else, word just sort of spread amongst the hotel patrons and the front desk, a pretty good job of getting word out. You know, word spread quickly.
ALLEN: So from what I can tell, Augie, and we know you're a hardened CNN producer who's been through a lot of things before. So it may not be worrisome to you. A manager at another hotel said he had some panicked people when they first heard the -- the word tsunami.
Anybody there get a little nerved up who's visiting that you could see? MARTIN: No, not that I've seen. And I mind you, I've been, you know, up on the roof for the better part of an hour and a half so I haven't been down with the rest of the hotel guests, you know, for at least an hour and a half or so. But no, I didn't see anybody who was overly concerned. I saw people who, you know, wanted to find out what they needed to do in order to remain safe. But, you know, nobody seemed panicky or, you know, just outright fearful.
ALLEN: And so you're -- you're not right on the water, you said?
MARTIN: No, I am right on the water.
ALLEN: You are, OK.
MARTIN: On a very, very big -- one of the -- one of the top beaches in Hawaii. A big crescent beach at the Manakai Beach Hotel. And it's a very natural bay. And it's a full moon tomorrow night, it's quite light outside, so you can actually see the beach very well. And I'd anticipate being able to see anything that changes down there so.
ALLEN: So you'll be able to tell if it picks up, as far as the wave coming in?
MARTIN: Yes. I think so, I think it should be pretty readily apparent if -- you know if the water at the beach gets sucked out prior to any tsunami coming ashore or if, you know, there's a wave that comes up much higher, you know, than they have been. I think it should be pretty easy to see that under the light of this moon.
ALLEN: Have they been able to tell any of you how long you can expect to have to stay in the hotel if this does bear out three to seven feet waves that continue for several hours and what tomorrow could bring?
MARTIN: No, I -- not that I have heard. I think they were -- I think the hotel was primarily focused on just trying to deal with the situation, you know, right now and I'm not so sure that they've actually gotten to that point yet. But I can't speak for them. But I haven't heard that, no.
ALLEN: OK. All right, Augie, we appreciate it. Augie Martin, one of our CNN producers, who's on the big island for us, thanks.
Right now we're going to listen in to our affiliate, that's them on the left side of your screen. This is KITV's coverage, as we watch and see what comes in from this tsunami warning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people thought it was an April Fool's joke.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a lot of people were curious and went down to the ocean to see what was going on, because nobody knew -- what's a tsunami? What's a tsunami. Come on. We've been through 2004, Indonesia, we've been through Japan, we know what these things can do. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we've really just luckily just barely had anything. But by looking at that graphic that Lara shared with us, there could be a lot more energy coming our way. We're going to go to Lara right now. She is live with the latest at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center -- Lara.
LARA YAMADA, KITV REPORTER: Yes, we're expecting one of the scientists to come out any minute now. But we did get some information anyway. They're saying that they're watching the tide gauges right now and it is hitting those tide gauges in Haleiwa, in Hanalei, and some of the other ones that -- there's 13 tide gauges around the island. They're keeping information -- an eye on and that's the exact information that they need to say, hey, it's three feet coming our way, it's four feet, it's five feet, it's six feet.
So typically what happens is they watch that gauge, they get transmissions every 15 seconds, and they look for the patterns to say, this is accurate. This is the information that we're going to give out. So they're going to watch a few more transmissions, and they're going to watch a couple more cycles, too. Those cycles about every 20 minutes that these waves are coming in. So they're trying to get the most accurate information they possibly can before they give out those exact wave heights.
But they're watching it right now. It is hitting those tide gauges in a number of areas. So it should be just a couple of minutes before we get some updated information on what they are predicting is going to happen, which has been consistent throughout the evening.
I'll go ahead and send it back to you guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks so much, Lara.
And you know, what was so striking to me about that graphic that Lara had showed us earlier was just how targeted that energy was.
Justin, talk a little bit about what that really means when you're looking at an image like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if we can get a graphic up of that. And we're not -- I doubt we'll be able to do that. But basically, it's like anything, like a car crash. You have -- you have energy sent across a wide spectrum of area. But you're going to have the most tremendous amount of energy focused in one particular area. And that's what we're seeing in this tsunami event.
The models from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center are showing that energy has been sent out across the Pacific but that river of the most potent energy has been sent right toward the islands of Hawaii. And that's the reason why we are especially concerned about this particular event.
Crescent City, California, is on the outskirts of this directional energy and they had a 17-inch wave. Sounds small, yes. That's pretty small. But we're in the directional energy here. We're in the center of where the most potent energy was transmitted out of this earthquake. And that's the reason why we have -- are especially concerned here in Hawaii for waves of three, four, five, possibly six, seven feet at some of the largest locations. Places like Kahului and Hilo harbor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Lara talked about how they're looking at tidal gauges in those harbors. How important are -- is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's very important. Because we need to -- as soon as we get that information, basically, what you're looking at is there's always some kind of wind wave, there's always some kind of swell going on. What you're looking at now, what scientists are looking at is how much increase we've seen on top of that. And that's where they have to make -- do the math and see OK, the wave here is this high, as opposed to the background of what's been going on all evening long.
And then now that the tsunami has arrived, how much feet is being recorded at these buoys. And again it doesn't take a lot of energy. The last tsunami that we had here created a seven-foot wave at Kahului Harbor. And we saw the destruction that went on in several harbors, places like (INAUDIBLE). And we're not going to forget the shot of that home in (INAUDIBLE) Bay just floating through.
We do have a picture of that energy now, we want to show you here. And this is the directional energy associated with this tsunami. In the last two events, in Japan, last year, most of that energy was focused south of our islands. With one little sliver headed straight toward Crescent City, California. We had destructive damage, waves of five to six feet. Back in Chile, 2008 -- 2010, sorry. Has it really been three straight years in a row?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we have. No, we've been here a lot lately.
And it's always at night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been three straight years in a row. OK, 2010 in Chile, most of that energy was focused south of our islands. But now you see this dramatic picture here of this graphic from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center showing the directional energy. The strongest energy outputted from this magnitude 7.7 earthquake off British Columbia in Canada headed straight for our islands.
And again we're awaiting word from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center any minute now about the latest data from their buoys across the state, because this energy has arrived but they're now trying to calculate just how large this event really has ended up being.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just as you were talking about earlier, you know, it's very difficult, this one, as opposed to others, because we don't necessarily have the same -- we don't have the same buoys, we don't have the same sensors, we don't have the same ability to measure this one. And that's why, you know, initially we were saying 10:30, it's almost 10:45 now, we're not seeing the kind of impact that we had initially expected. But it's not as exact as that at times. Is that right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not an exact science. And like we said, Mother Nature pretty much will do what Mother Nature needs to do. It's just kind of an estimate as to how long it's going to take the wave at 600 miles per hour to reach us. And --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So that doesn't mean you can get in your car right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We said 10:30 earlier, you haven't seen what we had anticipated, but that doesn't mean we're in the clear at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that it hasn't happened. And the event actually lasts several hours sometimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does. It does, yes. So there could be several waves, or just a length between waves or when the first one comes. So it could be several hours before we get an all-clear. And that's what we wait to hear for an all-clear from State Civil Defense on when people can -- OK, Lara has an update now from Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Have they taken a look at those tidal gauges, Lara?
YAMADA: This is a -- this is Gerard Fryer here from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. He's going to give us an update here. If you could ahead and stand on this side here, Girard. Thanks so much.
What's the latest information that you have? You're seeing those tide gauges, the models come in?
GERARD FYER, PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER: The tsunami is arriving right now in Hawaii. And the reason I can't say how big it is is because it's coming in as we speak. And the period of the waves -- so it's taking like several minutes for it to rise and then fall. What we have seen at Makapuu, on this island initially it went up about a foot, and then it dropped very rapidly three feet. And since that was real information, I figured I'd come out and tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about Kahului? Kahului is the big spot that you guys were worried about.
FRYER: We haven't -- we haven't seen it there yet. That's a little bit delayed -- it should be coming in right now. But we see it, we see it, Hanalei, Haleiwa, Makapuu, those are all of our real time gauges. The others, yes, we have to wait.
YAMADA: So the information that's coming in right now and the way that the water is rising, is this all what you're expecting?
FRYER: Yes, pretty much. Typically the first wave is not the largest. You know, having inconvenienced everybody by, you know, making them evacuate in the middle of the night, I was hoping the first wave might be a little bigger. But traditionally in Hawaii, it's not the first wave that's the biggest by a long shot. So we already have a meter. So 3 1/2 feet, say, from peak to trough at Makapuu. And by now it's -- when I came out, it was -- it was still going down. I don't know what the limit's going to be. So the following waves I'm sure will be bigger. But it's actually happening right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there might be some people that might jump the gun and say, well, nothing's happening right now. I'm looking outside. How long do you think it should take before we're able to give an all-clear or anything else, for that matter?
FRYER: If these waves turn out to be big, the all-clear may take six or seven hours. If they don't get big, then we would be able to cancel earlier. And actually, we do not issue the all-clear, we just -- we just cancel the warning. The all-clear is up to is county to decide whether there's any danger.
YAMADA: Tell us a little bit more about how you're gathering this information. There are several tide gauges around the islands, is that correct? And you're getting transmissions about every 15 seconds and you're also paying attention to the cycles, is that right?
FRYER: Yes, we have 13 gauges all around the islands. And some of them transmit every 15 seconds, some of them transmit every couple of minutes. And we're able to watch -- basically it's a float in a tube. As water level rises and falls, the foot goes up and down and it gets relayed to us.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are some of the spots? You mentioned a couple of them. Haleiwa, Kahului. What are some of the major spots that you're most concerned about as you start to see this trend or the trends develop and the information come in?
FRYER: Well, definitely Kahului and Hilo, and Kaleiwa, actually Kahului, Hilo, Kaleiwa and Hanalei, so the four bad bays, if you get a big tsunami anywhere, you get a big tsunami in all of them.
YAMADA: And my understanding, too, is that it's not just those bays, it's once it gets between the islands. There's additional energy that can be generated, is that correct?
FRYER: Oh, yes. The energy bounces back and forth between the islands. And so the tsunami eventually hits every shore. Even the shorelines on the lee side of the island, away from the advancing tsunami.
YAMADA: When you look at the information that you have right now, how concerned are you?
FRYER: Right now, I reserve judgment. The tsunami arrived about when we expected it should. I was expecting it to be a little bigger. But, you know, give me 10 minutes, I'll come back out, and I'll give you an update. By then, you may have heard something yourselves.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I know you have said that it could possibly get up to six feet, possibly a little bit higher than that. But a lot of people at home might have the same Hollywood scenario of one big wave come crashing in. Can you take us through? A the love people may be tuning in right now so they don't understand. What can a three-foot wave or something smaller than that still do? What kind of damage can it wreak?
FRYER: Well, a three-foot wave, here we are at Eva Beach, and the elevation right here is probably, I don't know, six or seven feet. A three-foot wave would flood the first couple of blocks in from the beach. It probably wouldn't knock the buildings down but it would flood them. Everything on the ground would be basically destroyed. You know, destroyed by salt water.
A three-foot wave coming into a narrow channel can rise up into a vertical wall and you know that will knock you down, and beat you up, and maybe drown you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you talk about the data that you just got at Makapuu? Have you ever seen before that significant drop from one to three feet and what does that mean, exactly?
FRYER: Yes. We saw the same thing from the Japan tsunami. Pretty much the same. And in fact, the first wave also from the Japan tsunami was small. Typically, waves, tsunami waves in Hawaii usually the first wave is not the biggest, usually it's wave number three or number four that's the biggest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw that illustration that you handed out just a little while ago and it's pretty alarming. How surprised are you considering just the vast expansion of the ocean that that energy was coming straight towards us?
FRYER: Well, I've been playing this game for a while, so I'm not very surprised. Basically, there is nothing between Canada and us that would scatter the energy. So once the beam is formed it basically points at us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we have an update here?
FRYER: Yes. An updated. OK.
YAMADA: That's Gerard Fryer from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and they are watching very closely. Because as we've been talking about, it's rising right now and they're watching those tide gauges all around the island right now.
ALLEN: All right. We're monitoring our affiliate KITV talking there with the head of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. He's going back in for the latest news. So far, the tsunami coming ashore. But not the waves they anticipated at this point. But he did point out as you hear that the waves could get bigger as the tsunami moves in. But Hawaii starting to see this wave, or a series of waves generated from this earthquake that happened in Canada. We'll continue to follow it, continue with our breaking news coverage right after this.
ALLEN: And you're looking at pictures of the beach there on the island of Oahu in Hawaii as all of the folks there, 80,000 people living in evacuation zones, have gotten to higher ground in anticipation of a series of waves generated by an earthquake in Canada that are coming ashore right now. So far they haven't been the waves that were anticipated, three to six feet. But we just heard from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center's Gerard Fryer that they could get bigger. So it could be several hours before they know the true impact from this tsunami there in Hawaii.
But on a very busy party evening in Hawaii on this Saturday night and weekend before Halloween, thousands of people have been in their cars trying to get to higher ground or tourists are now holed up in higher floors in their hotels just in case this is the situation. They need to stay far away from and it could be hours before the alert is relieved and the all-clear is given to the people there in Hawaii.
Interesting, we're going to bring in Karen Maginnis now from our World Weather Center, that this huge Pacific Ocean and that graphic shows it, of where this earthquake hit and the direct line this tsunami decided to take toward Hawaii this evening, Karen.
MAGINNIS: Yes. And across the Pacific basin, they have what are called DARTs. It is a monitoring system, deep ocean assessment for tsunami activity. And essentially, there's something on the surface, and then they have another monitor which sits on the bottom of the ocean floor. And when that shakes at the bottom, it sends the information to the top, relays the data. The scientists take a look at that.
And that's why there was about an hour delay from when the initial earthquake happened way up here along the mid Pacific or British Columbia coast, between there and what the people saw in Hawaii that said, we're going to issue a tsunami warning. Not an advisory, like the folks here along coastal sections of British Columbia, even down across the northern coasts of California did not include the San Francisco Bay area.
That was an advisory, this is a warning. People in Hawaii are very aware of the potential for this.
I want to explain this graphic. I know you're probably wondering what this is. This is the coast of British Columbia. Queen Charlotte Islands. There is another name that it goes by, that is the name that we're using right now. But take a look at this. This kind of depicts where the energy is directed. It goes across the Pacific basin here, down to Hawaii. And you can kind of see where that energy is directed.
Now they have the monitors as I've mentioned. And along there, they can kind of tell how spread out that energy is. Is it more narrowed? And here you can see kind of the trend is, it is more aimed at the Hawaiian islands. And as a result, they were saying at 10:28 local time in Hawaii, they were expecting the first wave. May not be the strongest. May not be the highest. But they were looking at that energy to finally make its way to Hawaii.
We saw all those pictures of the Web cams and the images. Nothing looked significant. But as you said, Natalie, it could be hours, a couple of hours, just don't know at this point.
ALLEN: Absolutely. And thank you, Karen.
As we mentioned, the folks there in Hawaii only got one hour's notice that they needed to evacuate. And that caused a backup there on the streets as people were trying to get to higher shores. And one official said, at this point, get out of your car and start walking. So they're waiting and they're watching the oceans there in Hawaii. We'll be right back with more.
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