Major quake, tsunami hits Japan; limited evacuations on Washington coast due to wave threat

Mar 11, 2011

Updated 7:08 a.m., PST.  

The National Weather Service (NOAA) has issued a tsunami advisory for the Washington Coast following the massive 8.9 quake in northeast Japan.

Tsunami 'Advisory' Definition, from the National Weather Service:

  • Persons in a tsunami “Advisory” coastal area should move out of the water, off the beach and out of harbors and marinas.
  • Tsunami Advisories mean that a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves dangerous to people in or very near water is imminent or expected.
  • Significant widespread inundation is NOT expected for areas in an ‘advisory.'

 

Waves Expected Here After 7 a.m.; Some Evacuations on Coast

In Pacific and Grays Harbor counties, emergency management officials say "limited" evacuations are taking place. 

In Grays Harbor County, evacuations are taking place in the lowest-lying areas of Taholah, Pacific Beach, Moclips and Iron Springs (north of Copalis Beach), are people are being asked to move to higher ground.  A wave surge of up to 4 feet is projected for those areas shortly after 7 a.m. this morning, the highest level of wave expected to hit Washington state.

Pacific County has implemented its 'reverse 911' system, calling residents on the coast and in lowlying areas and asking them to evacuate calmly. He says an orderly evacuation is happening in Long Beach, Ilwaco and Ocean Park.

People are being asked to stay away from the beaches, harbors and coastal lowlands. Although the initial wave times are indicated, the highest wave may not impact the area for a few hours after that time.

In Oregon, tsunami sirens are blaring in coastal communities, the warning for residents to seek higher ground.  Traffic is heavy on the main transportation artery, Highway 101. In Seaside, at least one hotel has been evacuated. Waves in Oregon may be as high as 6 feet, and expected to arrive between 7 and 8 a.m.

Northeast Japan Rocked

A 13-foot tsunami washed away cars and buildings following a massive, magnitude-8.9 earthquake off Japan's northeastern coast, about six miles down.

TV footage showed severe flooding, with dozens of cars, boats and even buildings being carried along by waters.

A large ship swept away by the tsunami rammed directly into a breakwater in Miyagi prefecture, according to footage on public broadcaster NHK.

The quake was felt strongly in Tokyo, on the island of Honshu. Many people reported the shaking to last for several minutes. 

The extent of fatalities and damage are still unknown, as the situation remains 

Aftershocks Continue

The quake was followed by a series of aftershocks, including a 7.4-magnitude one about 30 minutes later. The U.S. Geological Survey upgraded the strength of the first quake to a magnitude 8.8 to 8.9. 

Tsunami Warnings Issued for Pacific nations, Hawaii

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami warning was in effect for Hawaii, Japan's Pacific coast, Russia, Marcus Island and the Northern Marianas, with warnings also issued for Guam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, as well as Mexico, nations of Central America's Pacific coast, and Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile in South America.

NHK News of Japan (English Service) has the latest information, and has been providing images of the quake damage and resulting tsunami waves that have washed far inland, destroying homes, businesses and farmland.

Major Damage

Japan's prime minister says the 8.9-magnitude quake caused "major damage" in northeastern Japan.

But Naoto Kan said nuclear power facilities in the area were not damaged and there was no radiation leakage.

The offshore quake Friday triggered a tsunami that hit Japan's northeastern coast, sweeping away buildings and cars.

The government's top spokesman, Yukio Edano, said that the country was sending troops to the quake-hit area to join relief efforts.