Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami Hits Hawaii, And Tsuami Warnings Issued For Entire U.S West Coast

People along the coasts of Hawaii and the West Coast held their breath as a tsunami raced across the Pacific at 500 mph threatening to strike with waves as high as 9 feet high, but what arrived did little more than soak the beaches and cause traffic jams.

They breathed a sigh of relief as the tsunami turned out to do little more than delight surfers along the California coast and irritate thousands who rushed to higher ground.

The 8.9 magnitude earthquake that rattled Japan today triggered a tsunami that sped across the Pacific Ocean at a velocity that matched that of a commercial jetliner.

Tsunami warning sirens went off from Hawaii to Alaska and Oregon. Evacuations jammed roads and prompted fistfights at gas stations, and the federal government prepared to deploy emergency relief teams.

In the end, the tsunami drenches the coastlines, but caused little damage.

Officials did not regret their warnings and calls for evacuations.

"We called this right. This evacuation was necessary," said geophysicist Gerard Fryer in Hawaii. "There's absolutely no question, this was the right thing to do."

The tsunami has claimed hundreds of lives in Japan, and with the devastation of the 2004 tsunami still fresh when 230,000 people died, officials were not taking chances.

The tsunami reached Hawaii around 3:30 a.m. local time. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says Kauai was the first island hit early by the wave, which quickly swept through the Hawaiian Island chain. There were no immediate reports of serious damage.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey the first wave to hit was not as large as experts anticipated, but bigger ones were expected to follow.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie ordered the evacuation of coastal areas. Through the night, residents waited on lines to buy gas, bottled water, canned food and generators.

At least tens of thousands of people were evacuated and there were reports of fighting at gas stations as people fuel up their cars to move inland in Hawaii.

Read More From ABC News

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