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Hawaii tsunami smaller than feared, tsunami advisory canceled for coastline

Published: Sunday, Oct. 28 2012 9:04 p.m. MDT

Mike Nakamoto of Honolulu prepare's his client's boat moored at the Ala Wai Harbor to take it to deep water after learning of a tsunami warning Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) (Associated Press) Mike Nakamoto of Honolulu prepare's his client's boat moored at the Ala Wai Harbor to take it to deep water after learning of a tsunami warning Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) (Associated Press)

HONOLULU — 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.

Tad Kanski of Newport Beach, Calif unties his family's sailboat moored at the Ala Wai Harbor after learning of a tsunami warning Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) (Associated Press) Tad Kanski of Newport Beach, Calif unties his family's sailboat moored at the Ala Wai Harbor after learning of a tsunami warning Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) (Associated Press)

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.

Visitors and Oahu residents watch the water level in the Ala Wai Harbor waiting for the arrival of a tsunami Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) (Associated Press) Visitors and Oahu residents watch the water level in the Ala Wai Harbor waiting for the arrival of a tsunami Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked an island off the west coast of Canada. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) (Associated Press)

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.

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BYU-Hawaii faced evacuation

LAIE, HAWAII – Students at BYU-Hawaii used its Newsroom website as a communications channel to keep parents and friends updated with what was happening as people were evacuated during a tsunami alert.

"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. "We're grateful for the chance to test our emergency procedures."

We used social media 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.

Visitors and Oahu residents watch the ocean water surge into the Ala Wai Harbor carrying various debris during a tsunami Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. The water dropped about a foot then came up a foot in about 30 seconds.  The first waves of a tsunami hitting Hawaii on Saturday night hit shore smaller than expected roughly three hours after officials ordered evacuations of all coastal areas threatened after a powerful earthquake off the coast of Canada.  Gerard Fryer, a geologist tracking the tsunami for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said the largest wave in the first 45 minutes of the tsunami was measured at 5 feet in Maui.  State and local officials warned residents and tourists not to go back to inundation zones until an all-clear is given.  (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) (Associated Press) Visitors and Oahu residents watch the ocean water surge into the Ala Wai Harbor carrying various debris during a tsunami Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. The water dropped about a foot then came up a foot in about 30 seconds. The first waves of a tsunami hitting Hawaii on Saturday night hit shore smaller than expected roughly three hours after officials ordered evacuations of all coastal areas threatened after a powerful earthquake off the coast of Canada. Gerard Fryer, a geologist tracking the tsunami for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said the largest wave in the first 45 minutes of the tsunami was measured at 5 feet in Maui. State and local officials warned residents and tourists not to go back to inundation zones until an all-clear is given. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) (Associated Press)

— Joe Walker

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