Tsunami Waves Over 4 Feet High Hit Pacific Coast after Major Eruption near Tonga

In this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, and released by the agency, shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. An undersea volcano erupted in spectacular fashion near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, sending large waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground. (Japan Meteorology Agency via AP)

Jan Wesner Childs – The Weather Channel

  • Waves between 1 and 4 feet were reported from Alaska to California.
  • Two people were taken to the hospital after being swept into the water while fishing in California.
  • Some coastal areas in Japan were evacuated.
  • The tsunami was generated by an undersea volcano in the South Pacific.

Waves between 1 and 4 feet were reported from California to Alaska Saturday after a tsunami advisory was issued because of a volcanic eruption in the South Pacific.

The advisory was issued for Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Coast including California, Oregon, Washington and parts of Alaska early Saturday morning after the undersea volcano erupted near the island nation of Tonga.

A wave of 4.3 feet was reported in Port San Luis California, according to the National Weather Service. Large waves were also reported in King Cove, Alaska, La Push, Washington, and several other locations.

Two people were transported to the hospital after being swept into the water Saturday afternoon at San Gregorio State Beach, according to local fire officials. One was taken by helicopter.

The National Weather Service had warned that potentially dangerous waves of hard-to-identify surging water could occur throughout the day.

“The arriving tsunami will come in pulses of surging water levels onto and off of the coast, similar to ‘high tide.’ Do not expect to identify these arriving pulses by large cresting waves/surf,” the NWS Bay Area office tweeted. “These water level surges can overwhelm and overtake people and pull them out to sea.”

People were advised to avoid beaches, harbors and marinas and to pay close attention to local forecasts. In some areas, emergency officials are telling people to leave beaches immediately.

Across the Pacific, evacuations were ordered in parts of Japan, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun. The newspaper, citing local emergency officials, reported that some 153,000 people were told to leave their homes in coastal areas.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said early Saturday morning that waves and fluctuations in sea level were expected to start in Alaska around 6:15 a.m. local time. The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said waves could arrive in some coastal areas around 7 a.m. PST with a peak of about 1 to 2 feet. Waves were possible in the San Francisco area around 8 a.m., according to the tsunami warning center.

In Japan, the country’s meteorological agency warned that a wave up to about 9 feet high could hit the Amami and Tokara islands, part of the Ryukyu chain southwest of mainland Japan. Local news reports said evacuations were issued in some areas. The chain also includes Okinawa, home to tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel. An advisory was issued there with waves up to 3 feet possible.

Waves of about 1 foot to over 2 feet slammed ashore in some areas of Hawaii.

The tsunami also reportedly pushed boats out of the water and onto docks in the state.

On Tonga, some 3,000 miles away in the South Pacific, large waves were reported crashing ashore, sending water swirling around homes and buildings. A tsunami warning was issued for the archipelago as well as for American Samoa, Samoa and Fiji.

The volcano, named Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai, sent ash, gas and steam rising like a mushroom cloud over the water. The eruption and a shockwave could be seen on satellite.

There were no immediate reports of injuries as communications to the island were knocked out.

Tonga is home to about 105,000 people.

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