Visitors and Oahu residents watch the water level in the Ala Wai Harbor waiting for the arrival of a tsunami on Saturday.
(Photo: Eugene Tanner, AP)
HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie says a tsunami warning that spurred coastal evacuations statewide is being downgraded to a tsunami advisory, ending the threat of serious damage.
Abercrombie said early Sunday that the Aloha State was lucky to avoid more severe surges after a powerful earthquake struck off the coast of Canada.
Abercrombie says beaches and harbors are still closed statewide. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service canceled tsunami advisories for Canada and Oregon, leaving northern California as the only spot in North America still under a tsunami advisory.
The first waves of a tsunami hitting Hawaii on Saturday night were smaller than expected, roughly three hours after evacuations were ordered.
Gerard Fryer, a geologist tracking the tsunami for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said the largest wave in the first 45 minutes of the tsunami was measured in Maui at more than 5 feet, about 2 feet higher than normal sea levels.
State and local officials warned residents and tourists not to go back to inundation zones until an all-clear is given, though no major damage was reported.
At first, officials said Hawaii wasn't in any danger of a tsunami after the 7.7-magnitude earthquake rattled the western coast of North America Saturday night, sparking tsunami warnings for southern Alaska and western Canada. Later, officials issued a warning for Hawaii as well, saying there had been a change in sea readings.
About the same time, a tsunami advisory was issued for a 450-mile stretch of U.S. coast running from north of San Francisco to central Oregon.
"It's beginning to look like the evacuation may not have been necessary," Fryer said.
The National Weather Service said there were reports of water quickly receding in bays, including Hilo Bay on the Big Island. The warning in Hawaii spurred residents to stock up on essentials at gas stations and grocery stores and sent tourists in beachside hotels to higher floors in their buildings. Bus service into Waikiki was cut off an hour before the first waves, and police in downtown Honolulu shut down a Halloween block party.
Gov. Abercrombie proclaimed an emergency, mobilizing extra safety measures. While television traffic cameras showed onlookers at the beach in Waikiki, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle warned people to stay away from the surf for several days.
In Kauai, three schools used as evacuation centers quickly filled to capacity.
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