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HI tsunami smaller than feared; advisory canceled

Pieter Mathews stocks up at a Hawaii Kai 7/11 last night after a tsunami warning was issued for the state of Hawaii. The warning has since been canceled. [photo: Barry Markowitz]

HONOLULU (AP) -- Officials in Hawaii canceled a tsunami advisory for the state's coastline early Sunday, paving the way for beaches and harbors to reopen after widespread fears of waves generated from a powerful earthquake off the coast of Canada.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center lifted its tsunami advisory Sunday morning just before 4 a.m. local time, three hours after downgrading from a warning and less than six hours after the waves first hit the islands.

Center officials said wave heights were diminishing, though swimmers and boaters should be careful of strong or unusual currents.

The biggest waves - about 5 feet high - appeared to hit Maui. A popular triathlon set for the island was expected to go on as planned, with county lifeguards giving the OK for a 1 mile ocean swim.

There were no immediate reports of damage, though one person died in a fatal crash near a road that was closed because of the threat near Oahu's north shore.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said the state was lucky to avoid more severe surges.

"We're very, very grateful that we can go home tonight counting our blessings," Abercrombie said.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service canceled tsunami advisories for Canada, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California.

At first, officials said Hawaii wasn't in any danger of a tsunami after the 7.7-magnitude earthquake, which sparked tsunami warnings for southern Alaska and western Canada.

Later, officials issued a warning for Hawaii as well, saying there had been a change in sea readings. About the same time, a tsunami advisory was issued for a 450-mile stretch of U.S. coast running from north of San Francisco to central Oregon.

A small tsunami created by the quake was barely noticeable in Craig, Alaska, where the first wave or surge was recorded Saturday night.

The warning in Hawaii spurred residents to stock up on essentials at gas stations and grocery stores and sent tourists in beachside hotels to higher floors in their buildings. Bus service into Waikiki was cut off an hour before the first waves, and police in downtown Honolulu shut down a Halloween block party.

Abercrombie proclaimed an emergency, mobilizing extra safety measures.

In Alaska, the initial wave or surge was recorded at 4 inches, much smaller than forecast, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The first wave hit Craig about two hours after the earthquake. Surges at other Alaska communities were later recorded at 6 inches, while others were much smaller.

A dispatcher with the Del Norte County Sheriff's said no damage was reported in Crescent City, a tiny fishing community in far Northern California, or in any other locations along the county's coast.

A tsunami warning means an area is likely to be hit by a wave, while an advisory means there may be strong currents, but that widespread inundation is not expected to occur.



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