Hawaii. A place of paradise for both locals and world-wide tourists.
Making visits to the islands for their honeymoons or to have a small moment of peace in the never ending chaos.
Home to the most stunning beaches, palm trees and endless amounts of fun activities, Hawaii should never be crossed off the bucket list.
However, along with the glorious white sand beaches, Hawaii is known for its drastic weather conditions. From hurricanes to tsunamis, it’s important to know whether it’s safe to visit.
Keep reading to discover the history of Tsunamis in Hawaii and when it’s safest to visit the spectacular sights of Hawaii.
What Is A Tsunami?
Tsunamis are massive waves that occur under the sea as a result of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
Tsunami waves do not grow in height as they go further into the ocean.
Rather as the depth of the water declines, the waves build up to higher and higher heights as they travel onshore.
The speed of tsunami waves is determined by the depth of the ocean rather than the distance from the wave’s source.
Tsunami waves can travel as fast as jet planes across deep water, decelerating only when they reach shallow water.
While tsunamis are frequently referred to as tidal waves, oceanographers advise against using this term because tides have little to do with these massive waves.
History Of Tsunamis In Hawaii
There is history of Tsunamis occurring from as far back as the 16th century.
A Hawaiian chant that portrayed a massive wave that slammed into the Moloka’i coast.
Since then the list of Historical Documents have recorded at least 85 Tsunamis have occurred.
Over 10 of these events have caused considerable damage to the island.
Documented as the most destructive tsunami in Hawaiian history took place in early 1946.
Hitting the Hawaiian Islands as the aftermath of a 8.1 Earthquake from near the Aleutian Islands. Causing tens of millions of dollars in damages and taking many lives.
The most recent tsunami to occur in Hawaii happened in 2011. A repercussion of the M9.0 Earthquake which struck Japan.
The earthquake resulted in a pacific-wide tsunami causing over 7.5 million dollars of destruction to the counties of Honolulu, Maui and Hawaii.
These life-threatening events have pushed Hawaii to become the first state in the US to use tsunami evacuation maps in disaster response operations.
Residents of the Hawaii Islands are now regularly prepared for the event that a Tsunami may take place.
Hawaii Tsunami Warning
Hawai’i has created the largest outdoor warning siren system in the United
States. Over 400 sirens are installed across the islands, with 76 state-of-the-art sirens
to be added, increasing coverage state-wide. The new, standardized, electronic
sirens are battery powered with a photovoltaic solar charging system and have
redundant cellular/satellite communications. An additional 73 existing legacy sirens are to be updated to meet Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency (Hi-EMA) standards.
Everyone on the islands is equipped with the knowledge to get themselves and loved ones to safety in the event of the siren being used.
Evacuating areas of low-land and anywhere near open water is the key to ensuring everyone’s safety.
Are They Dangerous?
In short, yes. Tsunamis are dangerous. Due to their speed and volume tsunamis can cause extensive damage to the area and the people living within the area.
When they happen out at sea it’s rare that they cause any damage near human civilization/ However, when a tsunami reaches land, it becomes dangerous.
When a tsunami hits shallow water along the coast, it slows to 20 to 30 miles per hour.
The wavelength gets shorter, the height gets higher, and the currents get stronger.
As they return to see they carry debris and people with them making them extremely dangerous.
In a tsunami, the initial wave may not be the last, largest, or most destructive.
Stay clear of the tsunami hazard zone until local authorities say it’s safe, as the threat might persist for hours or days.
In Hawaii it is the responsibility of the local authority to inform citizens that it is safe to return home.
How Often Does Hawaii Get Tsunamis?
As tsunamis strike the Hawaiian Islands throughout the year, there is no particular season to determine when they may occur.
Despite the fact that huge tsunamis do not occur on a regular basis, one does occur once every five years on average.
A destructive or disastrous tsunami has slammed the Hawaiian Islands on average once every ten to twelve years over a 157-year span, causing significant damage or disaster.
Whilst the tsunamis have taken place in 2013 and 2015, the most recent natural disaster which caused irreparable damage was in 2011.
Prior to the 2011 tsunami, the 1964 Alaskan tsunami caused damage to only Hawaii but other parts of the world.
Similarly, another natural disaster associated with the Islands are Hurricanes.
Whilst strong winds storms are often occurring in the major islands, Hawaii rarely has a hurricane happen.
The first officially documented hurricane to occur in Hawaii was Hurricane Hiki in 1950 and the last was in September of 1992.
Highlighting that there is no hurricane season nor a tsunami season.
Just a quick recap:
- Tsunamis happen more often than you think with an average of one every five years.
- Whilst extremely dangerous, Hawaii is still a beautiful location to be visited no matter the time of year.
- There is no ‘hurricane season’ or ‘tsunami season’. The islands are often plagued with tropical storms throughout the year but are rarely struck with a hurricane or damaging tsunami.
- The Hawaii authorities have established a protocol in the event of a tsunami warning to keep everyone safe.
If the idea of a potential tsunami is still a concern, we recommend staying inland whilst exploring the islands. But who isn’t partial to a day at the beach.
So, book your trip to the gorgeous islands of Hawaii, enjoy your time in paradise and don’t forget your sunblock!