Hawaii lifts Tsunami watch


The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has lifted a tsunami watch for Hawaii following a magnitude-7.9 undersea earthquake near the Samoa islands

The center downgraded the Hawaii watch to an advisory at 10:23 a.m., according to center director Charles McCreery.

The Islands remain under a tsunami advisory until 7 p.m., meaning unusual sea levels or currents could occur. The warning center says sea level changes of 3 to 4 feet could take place between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., McCreery said.

The quake generated a tsunami that came ashore on American Samoa.

Fili Sagapolutele, who works at the Samoa News, said water flowed inland about 100 yards in Pago Pago before receding, leaving cars stuck in mud.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or structural damage.

In Hawaii, residents are being urged not to call 911 for updates. Instead, they should monitor the situation on television, radio or news Web sites, said John Cummings of the city’s Department of Emergency Management.

The tsunami watch was declared at 8:05.

The quake was located 110 miles east-northeast of Hihifo, Tonga; 125 miles south-southwest of Apia, Samoa; 435 miles north-northeast of Nukualofa, Tonga; and 1,670 miles north-northeast of Auckland, New Zealand.

In the Samoan capital of Apia, families fled their homes amid severe shaking that lasted for up to three minutes, the Associated Press reported. Local media reported people fled to higher ground.

The warning center said quakes of this magnitude have the potential to power destructive tsunami that can strike nearby coasts within minutes.

The earliest expected time of arrival for a tsunami in Hawaii would be 1:11 p.m., the warning center said.

A tsunami warning is in effect for American Samoa, Samoa, Niue, Wallis-Futuna, Tokelau, Cook Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Kermadec Islands, Howland-Baker, Jarvis Island, New Zealand, French Polynesia and Palmyra Atoll.

Hawaii is listed as under a tsunami watch along with Vanuatu, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Johnston Atoll, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Papua New Guinea, Pohnpeo, Wake Island, Pitcairn Island and Midway.

Hawaii County Civil Defense is advising all residents to avoid shoreline areas due to the Tsunami Advisory in effect for the Hawaiian Islands. All beaches will be closed until tomorrow due to possible surges and unusual currents from the earthquake in Samoa.