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Earthquakes in New Zealand raise tsunami concerns for Pacific coast states

A flurry of powerful earthquakes of magnitude between 4.5 and 8.1 at depths of about 6 miles have been reported this morning, March 4th, in the Kermadec Islands region located about 600 miles northeast of New Zealand. The M8.1 quake occurred about 11:30pm Pacific Standard Time (PST) and triggered tsunami concerns, both locally and abroad.

Tsunami threat warnings were issued for locations in the South Pacific Ocean and the west coasts of South America and Central America advising people in those regions to move immediately to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones or as far inland as possible. An advisory was also issued for the islands of American Samoa.

At 1:30pm, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a statement that said, “Earthquakes of this size are known to generate tsunamis potentially dangerous to coasts outside the source region.” They said they were continuing to analyze the event to determine the level of danger, if any, for Pacific coastal regions of California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. As of 2pm, no tsunami warnings had been issued for US west coast states.

UPDATE 2:25pm: NPTWC issued a final statement saying “There is no tsunami danger for the U.S. West Coast, British Columbia, or Alaska.”

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According to NOAA Tsunami Program website, “As tsunami waves propagate, or move across the ocean, networks of shallow and deep-water instruments along coastlines and throughout the world oceans report changes in sea level that either confirm or eliminate the existence of tsunami waves.”

If a tsunami were to appear on Washington coast shores because of this earthquake, it would be expected to reach north Puget Sound shores after 1:30am according to travel time estimates provided by the NPTWC.

US Tsunami Warning Centers issue tsunami messages based on the above predetermined classifications to notify emergency managers, the public, and other partners about the potential for a tsunami following a possible tsunami-generating event. Source: NOAA Tsunami Program

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