Tsunami Advisory Canceled for San Diego County Beaches Following Volcano Eruption

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The National Tsunami Warning Center has canceled the tsunami advisory for San Diego County beaches after an undersea volcano erupted near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday.

The tsunami advisory was originally issued for the West Coast of the United States and Hawaii.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or on the extent of the damage because all internet connectivity with Tonga was lost at about 6:40 p.m. local time, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for the network intelligence firm Kentik.

Video posted to social media shows large waves washing ashore, swirling around homes and buildings. New Zealand’s military says it's on standby. Satellite images show a 3-mile-wide plume of ash, steam and gas rising into the air 12 miles high. Tonga's King Tupou VI was reportedly evacuated from his palace near the shore, among the many residents who headed for safety. About 105,000 people live in Tonga.

In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported waves slamming ashore from half a meter (a foot) in Nawiliwili, Kauai, to 80 centimeters (2.7 feet) in Hanalei.

The Tsunami advisory for the state of Hawaii ended shortly before 10 a.m. PST.

The National Weather Service reported the latest tsunami coastal observations for San Diego. As of 11:15 a.m. Saturday, San Diego had increased waves to 1.4 feet from 0.8 feet waves at 9 a.m. and La Jolla still held at 0.6 feet waves since 9 a.m.

A high surf advisory is in place for San Diego County beaches through 2 p.m. Saturday. NWS said we can expect breaking waves of 4 to 6 feet with sets to 7 feet. We can expect the highest surf south of Torrey Pines.

No evacuation orders were in place in San Diego County.

Some San Diegans did go out to ride the waves Saturday morning.

"I’m staying on the coast and I saw people coming out with wet suits on and their surfboards I was like, 'Oh my gosh, they are going out right now?'" said Kasey Dewalt of surfers at La Jolla. "I kind of freaked out a little bit because I’ve never experienced anything like this before."

The Port of San Diego Harbor Police posted this video of Shelter Island where you could see how tides and currents during a tsunami advisory can affect our ports and marinas.

What is a Tsunami Advisory?

According to the National Weather Service, a tsunami advisory means that a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves to those in or very near the coast could occur.

However, residents in the coastal areas in San Diego County should not expect widespread inundation. Tsunami waves of 1 to 2 feet are possible, according to the NWS.

Seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones said if you are more than 3 feet above sea level it will not affect you. An advisory is only an issue near the beach.

Here is the tsunami start advisory times for San Diego County:

  • La Jolla: 7:50 a.m.
  • Oceanside: 7:50 a.m.

The NWS said we can expect tsunami waves will arrive in pulses throughout the day.

"Tsunamis are not one wave. It's more like sloshing and that sloshing can continue for a day. Just because the first wave has passed, it is not time to go see the beach," Jones said.

What Should I Do During a Tsunami Advisory?

Recommended actions include moving off the beach and out of harbors and marinas. It is recommended that people do not go to the coast to watch the tsunami and that they should be alert to instruction from local emergency officials.

It's also important to stay aware of your surroundings: Keep an eye out for instructions from local emergency officials, who may have more detailed or specific information, and if you feel a strong earthquake or extended ground rolling, move inland and uphill as quickly as possible.

Anyone currently at sea during a tsunami advisory should avoid entering shallow water.

Oceanside Police said all Oceanside beach areas will be closed this morning until further notice due to the advisory. The beaches later reopened once the advisory was canceled.

The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning was declared for all of the archipelagoes, and data from the Pacific tsunami center showed waves of 80 centimeters (2.7 feet) had been detected.

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

Authorities in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, telling people to avoid the shoreline due to strong currents and dangerous waves. The Japan Meteorological Agency said there may be slight swelling of the water along the Japanese coasts, but it was not expected to cause any damage.

The Islands Business news site reported that a convoy of police and military troops evacuated Tonga's King Tupou VI from his palace near the shore. He was among the many residents who headed for higher ground.

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

A Twitter user identified as Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted a video showing waves crashing ashore.

“Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post: “Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky.”

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 5-kilometer (3 miles) -wide plume rising into the air to about 20 kilometers (12 miles).

More than 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) away in New Zealand, officials were warning of storm surges from the eruption.

The National Emergency Management Agency said some parts of New Zealand could expect “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore following a large volcanic eruption.”

The volcano is located about 64 kilometers (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.

Tonga is home to about 105,000 people.

This is a developing story and we will continue to follow updates. 

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