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Tsunami Passes Alaska, No Reports of Damage

March 11, 2011|By Ted Land | Channel 2 News
  • Hundreds of passengers wait in the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport after their flights were diverted from Tokyo.
Hundreds of passengers wait in the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport after their flights were diverted from Tokyo.

JUNEAU, Alaska — The massive earthquake that struck Japan late Thursday triggered a tsunami which swept along the Alaska coastline from the Aleutian chain to Southeast Alaska Friday morning, causing no reports of damage to date.

A stretch of coastline between Attu and Amchitka Pass was under a tsunami warning Friday morning, while the rest of the state faced a less-severe tsunami advisory that continued into the afternoon.

A tide gauge at Shemya, Alaska, monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed water rising 5 feet early Friday. Meters near Adak and Dutch Harbor showed smaller rises.

The State Emergency Coordination Center activated late Thursday and plans to remain active until all Alaska communties are in the clear. There have been no reports of damage.

“Many of the communities now threatened by these tsunamis have recently received new all-hazard emergency warning sirens and tsunami response training,” said Maj. Gen Thomas H. Katkus.

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According to a statement from the Kenai Peninsula Borough, tsunami sirens sounded in Seward, Homer, and Seldovia, even though there was no warning issued. 

The borough expected wave heights to be no more than a foot in Homer and Seward when they came ashore between 4 and 5 a.m. People were not required or recommended to evacuate low-lying areas, though they were advised by the borough to stay out of harbors and off beaches due to rapid currents.

Meanwhile, some international flights to Tokyo were diverted to Anchorage. Three wide-body passenger jets landed in the middle of the night; one was operated by United Airlines, the others by American Airlines. Hundreds of passengers crowded into the terminal at Ted Stevens International Airport and then boarded shuttle buses bound for Anchorage hotel rooms.

"We're just kind of taking it one step at a time, seeing what happens," said Kendra Lee, a passenger from Oklahoma.

Passengers on one of the flights told Channel 2 that had it not been for a 5-hour delay in Chicago, their flight would have landed in Tokyo prior to the earthquake.

Elsewhere, the Alaska Department of Transportation reports the Sitka airport shut down power for a few hours to minimize the impact of waves hitting the generators.  One scheduled flight was delayed by an hour.

The Alaska Marine Highway System said 2 of its ships went out to sea to avoid damaging the ports where they were docked. 

According to the National Weather Service:

A tsunami warning means that all coastal residents in the warning area who are near the beach or in low-lying regions should move immediately inland to higher ground and away from all harbors and inlets including those sheltered directly from the sea. Those feeling the earth shake, seeing unusual wave action, or the water level rising or receding may have only a few minutes before the tsunami arrival and should move immediately. Homes and small buildings are not designed to withstand tsunami impacts. Do not stay in these structures.

A tsunami advisory means that a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves dangerous to persons in or very near the water is expected. Significant, widespread inundation is not expected for areas under an advisory. Currents may be hazardous to swimmers, boats, and coastal structures and may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival.

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