The Slatest

West Coast Under Tsunami Advisory After Underwater Volcano Eruptions Near Tonga

This photo taken on December 21, 2021 shows white gaseous clouds rising from the Hunga Ha'apai eruption seen from the Patangata coastline near Tongan capital Nuku'alofa.
This photo taken on December 21, 2021 shows white gaseous clouds rising from the Hunga Ha’apai eruption seen from the Patangata coastline near Tongan capital Nuku’alofa. MARY LYN FONUA/Getty Images

A tsunami advisory was in effect for the U.S. West Coast Saturday morning after an underwater volcano erupted near the Pacific nation of Tonga. A four-foot tsunami wave was reported to have hit Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, after the volcano eruption some 40 miles away sent a cloud of ash into the air. Tsunami warnings had been issued for the islands of Tonga. Advisories were also issued for Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Pacific Coast, and Canada’s British Columbia, among others.

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Footage posted on social media showed water rushing through areas in Nuku’alofa after the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano. It was difficult to assess the true extent of the damage considering many parts of Tonga were experiencing a near-total blackout of power, phone lines, and internet services. Tsunami waves were also reported in the capital of American Samoa. In the United States, the National Tsunami Warning Center warned of strong currents and waves along the West Coast.

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Officials in the United States called on residents to stay away from the coastline and move to higher ground. Beaches and piers were closed across Southern California as officials called on people to take the advisory seriously. “We don’t issue an advisory for this length of coastline as we’ve done — I’m not sure when the last time was — but it really isn’t an everyday experience,” said Dave Snider, tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska. “I hope that elevates the importance and severity for our citizens.” Officials said some coastal areas could see large waves and flooding.

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The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano first erupted Friday and then again on Saturday afternoon. It had been inactive for several years but started erupting intermittently in December. A series of eruptions In late 2014 led to the creation of a new island.

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