BYU-Hawaii students evacuated, tsunami fizzles

Published: Monday, Oct. 29 2012 12:20 p.m. MDT

LAIE, HAWAII – Students at BYU-Hawaii will have great empathy for what residents on America’s eastern seaboard are feeling Monday, having been evacuated in expectation of a Pacific tsunami that never really materialized Saturday night.

“Yes, we did have an evacuation (Saturday) night due to the tsunami threat,” said Michael A. Johanson, director of communications and marketing for BYU-Hawaii. “In the end, there was no tsunami of significance, but all coastal regions, including most of Laie, were evacuated to higher ground.”

CNN reported that the tsunami was “triggered by a powerful earthquake in Canada.” The earthquake registered a 7.7 magnitude on the Richter scale. It was located in western British Columbia, just south of the Charlotte Islands. No major damage was reported.

Still, there was enough concern about the possibility of a tsunami as a result of the earthquake that the alert was sounded in Hawaii.

When sirens announced the tsunami warning Saturday night, residents and tourists created bumper-to-bumper traffic jams as they headed to higher ground.

“Visions of the devastating quake and tsunami that killed thousands in Japan in March, 2011, fueled the fright,” reporters Alan Duke and Holly Yan wrote. “But the waves proved to be smaller and less powerful than feared.”

Johanson said BYU-Hawaii used its Newsroom website as a communications channel to keep parents and friends updated with what was happening.

“We used social media as well to help our emergency notification system initiate the evacuation at around 7:30 a.m.,” he said, indicating that the social media interface was especially effective with students.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancelled the tsunami warning for the entire state of Hawaii just before 1 a.m.

“All is well,” Johanson said, adding that “we’re grateful for the chance to test our emergency procedures,” which he said “was a great success.”

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