Volcano erupts on Pacific, west coast under tsunami advisory

Volcanic eruption, Pacific West Coast, Tsunami advisory, Tonga, Hawaii, Alaska, US Pacific Coast, latitude
Image source: AP.

Underwater Hunga Tonga An island created by the Hunga Haapai volcano is seen smoking on January 7, 2022.


  • An underwater volcano erupted in spectacular fashion on Saturday near the Pacific nation of Tonga
  • Volcanic eruption cuts internet for Tonga
  • Tsunami advisory issued for Hawaii, Alaska and the US Pacific Coast

An underwater volcano erupted on Saturday near the Pacific nation of Tonga, causing tsunami waves to crash ashore and people fleeing to higher ground.

The explosion cut the internet to Tonga, leaving friends and family members around the world on Sunday still anxiously trying to figure out if there were any injuries and the extent of the damage. Even the government website and other official sources remained without any updates.

Satellite images showed a massive explosion, with a plume of ash, steam and gas appearing like a mushroom over blue Pacific waters. A sonic boom could be heard as far away as Alaska.

A tsunami advisory was issued for Hawaii, Alaska and the US Pacific Coast. The US Geological Survey estimated the eruption to be the equivalent of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. Scientists said tsunamis generated by volcanoes rather than earthquakes are relatively rare.

Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning had been declared for all of the archipelago, and data from the Pacific Tsunami Center said waves of 80 centimeters (2.7 ft) were detected.

Read also: Undersea volcano erupts near Tonga, soon after tsunami warning for US West Coast

Rachel Afaki-Taumoepu, chair of the New Zealand Tonga Business Council, said she expected the relatively low level of tsunami waves to have allowed most people to find safety, although she was concerned about those living on the islands closest to the volcano. She was She said she was yet to contact her friends and family in Tonga.

“We are praying that the damage is just to the infrastructure and people were able to get to the higher ground,” she said.

Tonga gets its internet from Suva, Fiji via an undersea cable that was probably damaged. Doug Madori, director of internet analysis for network intelligence firm Kentik, said all internet connectivity with Tonga was lost around 6:40 p.m. local time.

Chief technical officer Dean Weverka said Southern Cross Cable Networks, the company that manages the connection, doesn’t yet know whether “the cable was cut or just lost power.”

The Fiji-based island business news site reported that a convoy of police and military soldiers escorted King Taupo VI of Tonga from his palace near the coast. He was among the many residents who headed to the higher ground.

On Tonga, home to some 105,000 people, videos posted on social media showed large waves washing up coastal areas, walking around homes, a church and other buildings.

The New Zealand military said it was monitoring the situation and was on standby, ready to assist if asked.

In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported waves that measured half a meter (1.6 ft) in Nawiliwili, Kauai, and 80 centimeters (2.7 ft) in Hanalei. The National Weather Service said there were reports of boats being pushed into the docks, but the danger had subsided by dawn.

Describing the situation in Hawaii, the Tsunami Center said, “We are relieved that there was no damage and only minor flooding throughout the islands.” The tsunami advisory for the islands more than 4,828 kilometers (3,000 mi) away was lifted approximately 11 hours after the eruption.

In Tonga, a Twitter user identified as Dr. Faka’ilotonga Toumofolou posted a video of the waves crashing into the sea.

“Can actually hear the volcanic eruption, sounds very violent,” he wrote in a later post: “Rain ash and small pebbles, the sky is dark.”

Hunga Tonga The eruption of the Hunga Haapai volcano was the latest in a series of dramatic eruptions.

Earth imaging company Planet Labs PBC had seen the island in recent days when a new volcanic eruption began in late December.

Satellite images captured by the company show how large the region was when the volcano formed a soaring island off Tonga.

“The island’s surface area has expanded by about 45% due to ash,” Planet Labs said a few days before the latest activity.

After Saturday’s eruption, residents of Hawaii, Alaska and the US Pacific Coast were advised to move to higher ground off the coast and heed specific instructions from their local emergency management officials, said Dave Snyder, the tsunami warning coordinator for the National Went. Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.

“We haven’t issued an advisory for this length of beach — I’m not sure when the last was — but it’s not really an everyday experience,” Snyder said.

He said the waves hitting the coast in Hawaii were only under the criteria for a more severe tsunami warning.

“It seems that everything will remain below the warning level, but it is difficult to predict because this is a volcanic eruption, and we are prepared to measure earthquakes or seismic sea waves,” Snyder said.

The first waves to hit the continental United States measured approximately 33 centimeters (1 ft) in Nikolsky, Alaska, and 59 centimeters (1.9 ft) in Adak, Alaska. According to the US National Tsunami Warning Center, a wave of about 79 cm (2.6 ft) was observed in Monterey, California.

Beaches and ferries in Southern California were closed as a precaution. “There were no significant concerns about waterlogging,” the National Weather Service tweeted. However, strong currents were possible, and officials warned people to stay out of the water.

On California’s central coast, the National Weather Service reported tsunami waves up to 4 feet (1.2 m) across and flooding in beach parking lots in Port San Luis. According to Michael Place, owner of M&M Surf School, the waves were very small at Seal Beach, Southern California, about 200 miles (320 km) down the coast.

“The waves look very flat,” Place said. “We are hoping they will reopen the beach in a few hours.”

Crowds gather at Santa Cruz Harbor in California to watch boats rise and fall under the pressure of the water on the docks. Law enforcement tried to turn people away when the big boom started around 7:30 a.m.

About an hour later, a boom went over the back lip of the port, filling a parking lot and lower streets and floating some cars. A series of booms in the port caused $20 million in damage after the Japanese earthquake in 2011.

Although experienced surfers consider waves reaching the West Coast to be barely high enough to qualify as swells, the National Weather Service warns that tsunamis cause massive surges of deceptive water to drag people into the sea. .

Residents of American Samoa were alerted by local broadcasters to tsunami warnings as well as church bells that rang across the region on Saturday. An external siren warning system was out of service. People living along the shoreline quickly moved to higher places.

As night went on, there were no reports of any damage and the Tsunami Center in Hawaii canceled the alert.

Officials in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, asking people to avoid shorelines due to strong currents and dangerous waves. In New Zealand, officials warned of a possible storm surge from the eruption.

New Zealand’s private forecaster, Weather Watch, tweeted that people as far away as Southland, the country’s southernmost region, heard a sonic boom from the explosion. Others reported that several boats were damaged by the tsunami that struck a marina in Wangarei in the Northland region.

Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported that scientists saw massive eruptions, thunder and lightning after the volcano erupted early on Friday. The satellite image shows a 5-kilometre (3-mi) wide plume rising into the air about 20 kilometers (12 mi).

Hunga Tonga Hunga Haapai Volcano is located approximately 64 kilometers (40 mi) north of the capital Nuku’alofa. In late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific Islands for several days.

There is no significant difference between underwater and on land volcanoes, and underwater volcanoes get bigger as they erupt, usually breaking the surface, said Hans Schweiger, a research geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

With underwater volcanoes, however, water can add to the explosiveness of the eruption as it collides with lava, Schweiger said.

Before an eruption, there is usually an increase in small local earthquakes at the volcano, but that may not be felt by residents along the shoreline, depending on how far it is from the ground, Schweiger said.

In 2019, Tonga lost internet access for almost two weeks when a fiber-optic cable was cut. The director of the local cable company said at that time that a large ship might have pulled anchor and cut the cable. Until limited satellite access was restored, people could not even make international calls.

Wawerka of Southern Cross Cable Network said limited satellite connections existed between Tonga and other parts of the world, but he did not know if they could be affected by power cuts.

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