Tsunami advisory rescinded for B.C. coast after Tonga volcano eruption

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Tsunami advisory rescinded for B.C. coast after Tonga volcano eruption
WATCH: Satellite imagery captures the moment an undersea volcano erupts off Tonga – Jan 15, 2022

A tsunami advisory forBritish Columbia’s coast was partially rescinded on Saturday afternoon, following the violent eruption of an underwater volcano near the Tonga Islands.

The advisory, which was not an formal tsunami warning to evacuate coastal areas, initially covered four zones.

Shortly before 1 p.m., Emergency Info BC said it had cancelled the alert for Zone A, which covers the North Coast, including Haida Gwaii, and Zone B, which covers the central and northeast Vancouver Island coasts, which include Kitimat, Bella Coola and Port Hardy.

The advisory was cancelled about two hours later for Vancouver Island, from Cape Scott to Port Renfrew, dubbed Zone C, and Zone D, which spans the Juan de Fuca Strait from Jordan River to Greater Victoria, including the Saanich Peninsula.

Residents had been warned to be wary of potentially dangerous or unusual ocean currents.

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“Although there were waves up to about a foot high on the island of Hawaii, and this event was recorded even in Alaska, it’s not going to cause flooding. But what it will do is cause strong currents. And I think people at the shoreline will see unusual current activity,” explained SFU earth sciences professor John Clague.

“But the whole point of these advisories is to alert people that they have to pay attention, and that strong currents in some cases can be quite dangerous.”

The province’s Alert Ready mobile notification system is not activated for tsunami advisories that do not require an evacuation.

In a statement, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said several coastal communities had activated emergency plans overnight.

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“Two Pacific Emergency Notification System alerts have been issued to emergency managers and media to update on this event,” Farnworth said.

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“Local communities are communicating this information to residents as per their emergency protocols for an advisory of this type. Although this is not a tsunami warning, this event demonstrates that coast warning systems do work.”

In Haida Gwaii, however, the incident appeared to have uncovered some bugs in the local emergency alert system.

The co-fire chief of Massett, Sylvan Daugert, said after learning about the advisory, his team sent out a pair of alerts meant to arrive by text, email and phone.

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“I got three out of the six messages I should have gotten on the various forms,” he said.

“If we actually had chosen to evacuate, if not everybody’s receiving that message — like, that’s the whole point. You know, we’re a coastal community; if we do feel the risk is so great that we must evacuate, we want everybody that sign up to get that message.”

Daugert said the community does have audio sirens that activate in the case of a tsunami, but not everyone can hear them.

He said village officials would begin investigating what went wrong on Monday.

As of 10 a.m. PT, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said officials had recorded wave heights of 10 centimetres in Tofino.

Waves of 124 cm were recorded in Port San Luis, Calif., waves of 85 cm were recorded in King Cove, Alaska, and waves of 36 cm were recorded in Port Orford, Ore.

An undersea volcano erupted in spectacular fashion near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, sending large tsunami waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground.

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A tsunami advisory was also issued for Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific coast.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of the damage as communications with the small nation remained cut off hours after the eruption.

On Tonga, video posted to social media showed large waves washing ashore in coastal areas, swirling around homes and buildings.

New Zealand’s military said it was monitoring the situation and remained on standby, ready to assist if asked.

Satellite images showed a huge eruption, a plume of ash, steam and gas rising like a mushroom above the blue Pacific waters.

The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning was declared for all of the archipelago, and data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center showed waves of 80 centimetres (2.7 feet) had been detected.

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Residents of American Samoa were alerted of the tsunami warning by local broadcasters as well as church bells that rang territory-wide.

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An outdoor siren warning system was out of service. Those living along the shoreline quickly moved to higher ground.

As night fell, there were no reports of any damage and the Hawaii-based tsunami center cancelled the alert.

The explosion of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.

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Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported that scientists observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it started erupting early Friday. Satellite images showed a five-kilometre-wide (three miles) plume rising into the air to about 20 kilometres

The volcano is located about 64 kilometres (40 miles) north of the capital, Nuku’alofa. Back in late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific archipelago for several days.

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Tonga is home to about 105,000 people.

— With files Nick Perry, the Associated Press and the Canadian Press 

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