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September 29, 2009 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Newsfilter: A large (8.3) earthquake near Samoa has triggered a tsunami in Samoa and American Samoa, and warnings for the pacific and Hawaii.

Witnesses on TVNZ's Breakfast show from Samoa have described quite serious damage and people being swept away by a two-three metre wave.
posted by sycophant (47 comments total)

 
We're a long way down the list in Wellington, but I'll get some popcorn ready just in case.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:54 PM on September 29, 2009


Would we see unusually large waves in San Francisco? If so, what time would they arrive?
posted by zippy at 12:55 PM on September 29, 2009


oh no. I hope things aren't too bad. I'm emailing my Samoan friend now.
posted by milestogo at 12:55 PM on September 29, 2009


I wish there were more synonyms for "earthquake". I really really hate the word "temblor".
posted by Plutor at 12:57 PM on September 29, 2009


There's very little confirmed information from Samoa at this stage, but most eyewitnesses spoken to on NZ television are reporting at least some loss of life. Apparently Apia (and I believe Pago Pago) are reasonably untouched, but many people live in smaller coastal villages where warning systems may not have been effective and were in much greater danger.
posted by sycophant at 12:59 PM on September 29, 2009


There's been unconfirmed reports that this is in fact a guerilla created for Google Wave.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:02 PM on September 29, 2009


Wish people there the best luck.
posted by Incense Man at 1:02 PM on September 29, 2009


Hmm, does the intensity of the tsunami vary linearly or cubically with the distance? I would guess linearly, right? I mean a soundwave in 3rd follows an inverse square law in 3d space, so it seems like a wave in 2d would vary with the circumference of wavefront (at first approximation anyway)
posted by delmoi at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reporting in from Hawai`i. Our last Tsunami Watch was about 15 years ago and ended up being something of a dud. So far in my area, we've been more concerned about our distant Pacific neighbors than about what might eventually arrive here. If something does arrive here, it will do so around 1:11 HST. We're following our local news right now.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2009


Information I have received from friends in Samoa is that they have been hearing reports of a wave up to 15 feet tall, and that it hit Pago Pago at basically the time that schoolchildren (of all ages) were all walking to school/waiting for the bus.

For those not in the know, the main island of American Samoa, Tutuila is mostly pretty damned steep and hilly, but a major habitation area on the South Side (the Tafuna Plain) is the result of a geologically recent volanic eruption, and is essentially at sea-level. Most Tutuilans live there, and most other villages are tiny and right on the waterline further around the coast.

Pago Pago Harbor is a little east from Pago Pago proper and is a big harbor mostly surrounded by steep hills on all sides, with a little sea-level land around it. A big wave crashing into there could potentially do some awful damage and sweep away lots of people. Not to mention that the American Samoa airport is built on the southeast edge of the Tafuna plain, on land reclaimed from the ocean. If the airstrip is damaged relief might have to come in first through Western Samoa's airport.

Everything's still coming in pretty patchy at the moment, so I'm hoping it's mostly just mass confusion caused by still being early after this happened.
posted by barnacles at 1:07 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Would we see unusually large waves in San Francisco? If so, what time would they arrive?

Yeah, Hawaii--perhaps oddities between high and low tide, but nothing unusually from 50 feet up. San Francisco: nope, nothing.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:09 PM on September 29, 2009


There's been unconfirmed reports that this is in fact a guerilla created for Google Wave.

That's funny, but, since a 9.1 tsunami in the Inidan Ocean killed 230,000 people in 2004, and this one hasn't finished its business, and we don't really know how much damage it has done yet, might I suggest holding off on the jokes for a little bit?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:09 PM on September 29, 2009 [28 favorites]


There's been unconfirmed reports that this is in fact a guerilla created for Google Wave.

It's interested to see trending on Twitter. Google Wave near the top with American Samoa close behind...
posted by sycophant at 1:11 PM on September 29, 2009


That's terrible. Hoping the damage is minimal. Samuel Farrow, I get that you're joking, but it comes across as wildly inappropriate to me in light of the circumstances.
posted by empyrean at 1:11 PM on September 29, 2009


I'll get some popcorn ready just in case… created for Google Wave

Fucking compassion. Look it up. Under F. For Fucking Compassion.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:13 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


According to this a few minutes ago, there was a 5-foot wave that reached American Samoa and a much smaller one at Samoa. Hawaii might get a much-reduced wave.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:13 PM on September 29, 2009


Watching Australian breakfast TV now - astounding compared to what was on NZ breakfast shows, there's not even been a mention of the tsunami risk or potential damage/death in Samoa...
posted by sycophant at 1:15 PM on September 29, 2009


Would we see unusually large waves in San Francisco? If so, what time would they arrive?


I don't know if they would be noticeably large, but a very rough estimate would be around midnight pacific time. Tsunamis travel faster across deep water. But looking at the shape of the plates via Google Maps, I'm guessing we won't.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:15 PM on September 29, 2009


Would we see unusually large waves in San Francisco? If so, what time would they arrive?

From the second link: THIS BULLETIN APPLIES TO AREAS WITHIN AND BORDERING THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND ADJACENT SEAS...EXCEPT ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...WASHINGTON...OREGON AND CALIFORNIA.

But if we hear otherwise, see ya on top of Bernal Hill!!
posted by granted at 1:30 PM on September 29, 2009


In Samoa, New Zealander Graeme Ansell said the beach village of Sau Sau Beach Fale was leveled.

"It was very quick. The whole village has been wiped out," Ansell told National Radio from a hill near Samoa's capital, Apia. "There's not a building standing. We've all clambered up hills, and one of our party has a broken leg. There will be people in a great lot of need 'round here."
posted by netbros at 1:31 PM on September 29, 2009


I didn't mean to put as much arsehole in the comments I knee jerked above, I sincerely apologise.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:34 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's hard to resist a funny joke.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:41 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm getting my updates from NZHerald and Stuff. Tsunami due on our East coast in 3 minutes. The black humour comes on thick until someone gets hurt.
posted by Enki at 1:42 PM on September 29, 2009


I heard about this on the radio during my commute. I quite literally gasped when the announcer reported that the earthquake was a 7.8 (though that seems to have been revised since)
posted by lekvar at 1:45 PM on September 29, 2009


Tsunami Watch for Hawii Canceled.
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:51 PM on September 29, 2009


*crosses fingers*
posted by Skorgu at 1:54 PM on September 29, 2009


From netbros link:
"The National Park of American Samoa visitor center and its offices appear to be destroyed completely," Bundock [spokesperson for the National Park Service] said.
If that's true, that's a very very bad sign. The NPS building is located on Pago Pago harbor not far from the water, but it was definitely one of the more sturdy buildings in the area. Nearby are the post office, and other government buildings, as well as a lot of the diesel tanks that power the island and ships.
posted by barnacles at 1:59 PM on September 29, 2009


So scary, so sad, so disconcerting. I truly hope the damage is as minimal as possible.

(Also, is it odd that I seem to repeatedly come to MeFi for up-to-the-second news? *Refresh*)
posted by functionequalsform at 2:09 PM on September 29, 2009


My understanding from phone calls with friends and family is that massive waves struck all the way up to the malae in fagatogo, which is about 200 yards inland from the beach (and therefore 190 yards from the road).

As Barnacles pointed out, the timing could not have been worse. At this time of morning, there is bumper to bumper traffic from people taking the only road into downtown Pago, which apparently was hard-hit. There are also a lot of young children walking to school or catching the bus to school. The "bus" is not like the commuter buses with which most of us are familiar; they are basically custom vans or modified pick-up trucks. Not very sturdy.

Everyone has gone up to the mountains, and there are scattered reports of people dying -- covered by the water or washed away when the waves hit. The villages on the eastern side of Tutuila have fared better, but the west and the south are in bad shape.
posted by Slap Factory at 2:16 PM on September 29, 2009


Slap Factory, have you heard anything about Manu'a? Olosega and Ta'u villages would have been right in the way of the wave, and you probably know how isolated they can be even in normal conditions.
posted by barnacles at 2:19 PM on September 29, 2009


I heard about this on the radio during my commute. I quite literally gasped when the announcer reported that the earthquake was a 7.8 (though that seems to have been revised since)

Revised upwards, I think. Most recent reports from the Beeb say 8.3.
posted by Slap Factory at 2:20 PM on September 29, 2009


Barnacles: Have not heard anything about Manu'a. It's been hard enough to get reports from Pago. I have been trying to tune into KSBS, but the live feed is intermittent at best, and the station is (understandably) issuing warnings and instructions rather than reporting news.

Odd coincidence is that there was apparently some disaster drill scheduled for this morning downtown. Not sure whether it would have affected evacuation one way or the other.
posted by Slap Factory at 2:24 PM on September 29, 2009


Yeah, we've been downgraded to a Tsunami advisory here in Hawai`i but it sounds like Samoa got hit pretty badly. Much concern for our neighbors! Hoping the reports were exaggerated and wishing safety and health to Samoa.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:05 PM on September 29, 2009


A brief witness account
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:00 PM on September 29, 2009


To do my bit and to make ammends for insenitive comments early in this thread I have donated to the relief effort in Samoa.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 4:31 PM on September 29, 2009 [21 favorites]


From the second link: THIS BULLETIN APPLIES TO AREAS WITHIN AND BORDERING THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND ADJACENT SEAS...EXCEPT ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...WASHINGTON...OREGON AND CALIFORNIA.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center didn't issue any advisories for the US or Canadian west coast because they aren't in its area of responsibility.

On the other hand, the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center does have an advisory out for the US west coast. Nothing huge, but looks like San Francisco, for example, will get a wave of 20 cm.
posted by av123 at 4:46 PM on September 29, 2009


Uncomfirmed reports on NZ TV state 19 deaths in Samoa.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 5:40 PM on September 29, 2009


Here's the San Francisco alert I got:
At 10:48 am an 8.0 earthquake was registered off the coast of American Samoa. At 1502 hours a Tsunami Advisory was issued for the coast of California. The tsunami is expected to generate a wave amplitude of less than 50 cm for San Francisco. This may cause currents that can be hazardous for boaters and swimmers, but it is not expected to do damage to the coastline. The first waves are expected to hit SF at approximately 2125 hours and last for a few hours. We are advising the public to please avoid swimming and boating this evening.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:14 PM on September 29, 2009


Sporadic (two) minor sea level changes were observed in Kahului Harbor, Maui. Still under advisement to watch for strong currents, sea level changes and hazardous conditions.
posted by Muirwylde at 6:35 PM on September 29, 2009


23 earthquakes in the last day. That's a lot of rumbling.
posted by tellurian at 6:41 PM on September 29, 2009


23 earthquakes in the last day. That's a lot of rumbling.


And very normal.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:52 PM on September 29, 2009


Uncomfirmed reports on NZ TV state 19 deaths in Samoa.

Sadly, I think the numbers are much higher. Probably more than twice as high.
posted by Slap Factory at 7:11 PM on September 29, 2009


Hawaii 4:44pm HST

Tsunami Notification #03 - TSUNAMI ADVISORYSeptember 29, 2009 4:30 p.m.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu has continued the Tsunami Advisory effective at 4:12 p.m. today.

EFFECTS: Small tsunami waves from this earthquake are now crossing the Hawaiian Islands. While these waves are not expected to cause any significant coastal flooding, they can produce small changes of sea level at the coast and strong or unusual currents that can be a hazard to swimmers, boaters and beachgoers.

The waves arrived in Hawaii shortly after 1:00 p.m. HST. Measurements at Kahului Harbor indicated an ocean rise of 1.2 feet at 3:09 p.m. Wave action can continue for several hours after the initial wave and the first wave is often not the largest.

The Tsunami Advisory will continue for the state of Hawaii until 7:00 p.m. HST.
posted by Muirwylde at 8:17 PM on September 29, 2009


First pictures from American Samoa are trickling in @ http://twitcaps.com/s/tsunami
posted by BoatMeme at 9:02 PM on September 29, 2009


My brother just moved to fucking Honolulu for college :[
posted by mmmleaf at 10:50 PM on September 29, 2009


NZ Herald is reporting 100 dead, whole villages wiped out. They also have a page giving regular updates: it's reporting 10 dead in Tonga as well, citing the ABC.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:24 AM on September 30, 2009


A new book provides historical perspective on how we anticipate and learn from tsunamis and other natural disasters, or not.

I should admit that I know the author, but I also know that he will be feeling just dreadful about his study's added topicality.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 1:50 AM on September 30, 2009


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