The devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake hitting Japan yesterday threw a powerful tsunami across the Pacific Ocean that has reached the U.S. mainland, leaving a trail of devastation in its path. It may be days and weeks before the overall damage toll will be known but from initial reports it is causing extensive damage in its wake.
Initial assessments as the waves reached Hawaii early this morning had shown the island state survived without major damage. Early on, the initial waves measuring at just around 2 ft. were reported at Barbers Point. NOAA reported waves up to 6 ft. and waves of various sizes were reported all across the islands. In Wailuki, Maui the ocean receded in advance of the waves exposing the reefs in the area. Off of Diamond Head lookout off the coast of Oahu, the water receded twice exposing the reef below — once about 3:43 a.m. and again at 3:55 a.m.
Gerard Fryer, a scientist with the Tsunami Warning Center, said an initial 6-foot surge was detected in Kahului Harbor, and a second surge was more than 7 ft. at Kahului Harbor. At Napoopoo at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island, one wave reached at least 100 feet inland and an elevation of 11 or 12 ft.
As the wave rolled across the Pacific it reached the West Coast hitting the northern part of the coast first. Around 8 a.m. PT the wave reached Northern California with extensive damage in harbors in the Santa Cruz and Humboldt areas. One image even surfaced online showing the tsunami travelling across the San Francisco Bay.
As hobbyists we hate to see the after effects of natural disasters on reefs. A report done from the United Nations in the wake of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and other major natural disasters, shows that in addition to using early warning systems to notify and evacuate the local population, natural coastal barriers help lessen the blow.
These natural barriers — coral reefs, islands and wetlands such as mangroves and marshes — are typically the first line of defense to help slow down the forces behind tsunamis and hurricanes. This also has a negative impact on the ecosystems in these areas making it all the more important to protect and help restore reef and wetland habitats.
As more information comes in from all the affected areas, there will be a greater understanding of overall damage in the wake of this disaster.