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Today's Featured Story: Hawaii, Hit By Large Tsunamis Before, Is Prepared

August 31, 2012

By WeatherBug Sr. Meteorologist, James West

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The Hawaiian Islands chain, sitting in the middle of Pacific Ocean, is surrounded by the earthquake-active "Ring of Fire" found on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, is not immune to tsunamis. Just like the Midwest prepares for spring tornadoes, California for the big earthquake and the Gulf, Florida and East coasts for hurricanes, Hawaii is ready for a tsunami.

Ringing the entire Hawaiian Islands coastline is a network of tsunami warning sirens that activate whenever the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center believes a tsunami threatens the state. Tsunamis can be generated by far off earthquakes or even ones that occur just off the Hawaiian coast.

Additionally, every road has signs indicating locations near the coast that are at elevations that are above or within tsunami danger zones. Areas within the tsunami zones are the ones that are being evacuated today.

Following the massive Japan earthquake in March, waves as large as 11 feet hit Hawaii, causing damage to about 60 boats. Prior to that, the last major tsunami generated by a far-off earthquake to hit Hawaii was on May 23, 1960, after a 9.5 magnitude earthquake struck off the western South America coast. It generated tsunami waves of 3 to 17 feet on the island chain. Hilo, on the north side of the Big Island was hit by a 35-foot tsunami wave. It destroyed Hilo`s downtown and killed more than five dozen people.

The United States Geographic Survey Hawaii Volcano Observatory says that "damaging tsunamis caused by distant earthquakes have occurred with startling frequency in Hawaii." Years tsunamis have hit Hawaii include 1837, 1841, 1868, 1869, 1877, 1883, 1906, 1918, 1923, 1933, 1946, 1957 and 1960. Tsunamis generated by local earthquakes hit 1868, 1872 and 1975. The 1975 tsunami caused by an offshore earthquake resulted in at least two deaths.

Other U.S. states that are vulnerable to tsunamis include Alaska and the entire West Coast.

Be sure to stay with WeatherBug for the latest on the earthquake and accompanying tsunami threat and have your WeatherBug active for the latest weather alerts in your neighborhood. Get the latest updates anywhere on Twitter at WeatherBug WeatherBuzz.

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Source: USGS

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