Saturday, May 18, 2013
Alaska Tsunami Warning Center Tracks Massive Quake in Japan
A deadly quake in Japan causes tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific. KTVA CBS 11 visited the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center to see what effect it had on Alaska.
The largest earthquake in recorded Japanese history shook the country last night, but the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, did not immediately issue tsunami warnings or advisories for Alaskans.
“We looked at the data a little later and we found the earthquake was much bigger, so we were discussing how big the earthquake was for a while… that’s why we did not send a warning out, because we had time. We also discussed the size of the earthquake,” said Paul Huang, Ph.D., Seismologist, West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.
But by waiting, it was able to change Japanese agencies’ first reading during the quake from 7.9 to the final reading of 8.9 magnitudes.
Tsunami warnings for areas surrounding the Aleutian Islands and advisories from Sand Point to Valdez spread across the state, but by the afternoon, Alaska remained safe.
“The energy [is] going down to South America, so you see there's very little energy heating Alaska,” Huang said.
“So that's why we're lucky. We're not in direct heat.”
Huang said Alaska was also skipped because of the surrounding Bering Sea.
“The waves slow down, the friction pick up all the energy so we got lucky there, too,” he said.
The islands of Hawaii saw swells of up to seven feet this morning and many islanders and tourists, including Alaskans, were forced to evacuate.
Anchorage Police Department spokesman Lt. Dave Parker was vacationing on the Big Island with his family when he was forced to evacuate his hotel Thursday night.
“There was a lot of damaged and a lot of shops were ruined. Bubba Gump’s had their staff down there [on the street] and they were starting the clean up effort, but otherwise businesses right across the street are opened up and life goes on as usual,” Parker said.
“Hawaiians are kind of resilient like Alaskans,” he continued.
After hours of work, the Tsunami Warning Center said its warning efforts were a success.
“We're lucky this earthquake did not happen in our territory, it did not happen in Alaska or west coast, it happened in Japan,” Huang said.
“We had lots of time, and it’s successful because we had time, we can do calculations. If this happened in our area, it wouldn't be easy, because nobody can get warnings out that fast…and with all the communications, everything would go down, so it'd be a lot of fatalities,” Huang said.
“This one is a lucky one.”
The Tsunami Warning Center said everything went smoothly Friday for Alaska, even as the effects of the quake spread across the world.