Update: The tsunami warning stands canceled as of now after “additional information and analysis have better defined the threat,” confirmed the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.
The coastal areas of southeast and southern Alaska have been issued a tsunami warning alert after a massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake was reported off the coast of the largest U.S. state. According to BBC News, the large earthquake took place under the ocean in the Gulf of Alaska, nearly 330 miles away from the Alaskan coast. The earthquake was initially reported to be a magnitude 8.1 tremor but has since then been downgraded to a magnitude 7.9. Apart from the coast of southeast and southern Alaska and the Alaska Peninsula, the Aleutian Islands and British Columbia in Canada are also under a tsunami watch as we file this report. In fact, a similar tsunami watch is also in effect for the U.S. states of Oregon, Washington, and California.
The National Weather Service has issued a map that shows the areas where the tsunami warning is in effect. As evident from the map, even far-flung Hawaii has an active tsunami warning in effect. The tsunami, however, would only reach Hawaii more than three hours from now. The first wave was predicted to hit Kodiak, Alaska, at 5:45 a.m. ET and Neah Bay, Washington, at 8:55 a.m. ET.
Additionally, the NWS Tsunami Warning Center has advised that the earthquake could cause “widespread hazardous tsunami waves.” The warning was issued after a signal detected by a tsunami detection buoy reported a wave that measured around 30 feet.
According to NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins, it is too early to predict if the tsunami will actually hit or if the data sent by the buoy was erroneous. Bill had his doubts because another buoy located slightly ahead of the earlier buoy did not record any such waves.
“We know one of the buoys showed a significant water rise right next to where the earthquake happened but the next buoy didn’t seem to experience that. We don’t know yet what this means. It could have malfunctioned. We just don’t know at this stage. It’s too early to tell,” Bill was quoted saying.
Nevertheless, Bill has asked anyone living near the Alaskan coast to move to higher ground as soon as possible. In fact, evacuation operations are already underway in Kodiak where a Twitter user confirmed that the tsunami siren had sounded. Videos of people supposedly evacuating from vulnerable areas have been posted online.
Kodiak police have asked residents to get to at least 100 feet above sea level in the wake of the tsunami warning. The officer also reiterated that this was not a drill.
Update 8:20 a.m ET: The tsunami warning stands canceled as of now. However, people living across the West Coast are advised to stay away from the shoreline for the next few hours.