UPDATE: Tsunami warning issued for Hawaii


By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer

(9:50 p.m.) The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency's Emergency Operations Center was thrown into full mobilization Saturday night as the tsunami from British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands approached.
As is the standard procedure during the tsunami warnings in 2010 and 2011, county department heads streamed into the EOC, located in a windowless compound adjacent to the Hilo police station.
Confusion was the order of the day as worried residents called in to the center seeking real information on the contradictory information that was bouncing around the airwaves and on social media.
Callers wanted to know: Was there a warning? Was there still a watch? Will there be an evacuation? When will the first siren sound?
Reports emerged that the sirens in East Hawaii were not sounding, with other unverified information surfacing that sirens elsewhere around the island had not sounded.
As late as 8 p.m., one radio station was broadcasting an old message that a tsunami warning was not in effect.
The EOC functions as the county's nerve center during emergencies, coordinating responses among county agencies and with State Civil Defense and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
People living in coastal areas were urged to begin evacuating immediately, with the last people out of the evacuation zone by 9:30 p.m., an hour before the waves were first expected to arrive in Hawaii.
The following shelters were opened: Hilo High cafeteria, Andrews Gym, Panaewa Park, Papaaloa Gym, Waimea Community Center, Hisaoka Gym and Kamehameha Park, West Hawaii Civic Center, Imin Center, Yano Hall, Naalehu Community Center, Pahala Community Center and Pahoa Community Center.

Mayor Billy Kenoi arrived at 8:10 p.m., and in the temporary absence of Civil Defense Agency administrator Ben Fuata, tried to take charge of the situation. "Everybody, we've been through this before. We know what to do. Thanks everyone for doing a great job," he said.
The Hilo International Airport runway was closed at 8:30 a.m. to allow Keaukaha residents to stream through the emergency evacuation routes and across the airport runway.
 Despite an initial glitch, all sirens in East Hawaii have sounded, Kenoi said. 
Following a closed-door conference call, the mayor said that estimates still held for a tsunami of 4-5 feet arriving in Hawaii shores late Saturday night. Hotels have been notified and were evacuating guests. 
Fuata, who was driving from Kona, arrived in the Hilo EOC shortly after 9:30 p.m. and went to work. 
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially said there was no tsunami warning, and upgraded it at 7:40 p.m. Sirens initially sounded around 8:15 p.m., Kenoi said.  
Residents worried about gas shortages took to the filling stations in droves, with some motorists sitting in their cars for half an hour waiting for a chance to fill up their tanks. 
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(8:04 p.m.) A tsunami warning has been issued for the state of Hawaii, effective at 7:09 p.m. Saturday night.An earthquake on the west coast of Canada triggered the warning.According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, the tsunami that has been generated could cause damage on the coastlines of all islands. The center recommends that action should be taken to protect lives and property.The estimated arrival time of the first wave is expected to be 10:28 p.m.The Tribune-Herald will post additional updates as necessary.
 

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