Tsunami waves up to 1.7 feet hit Washington coast

MOCLIPS — Vigorous waves similar to any stormy day on the coast were the only sign that a tsunami had arrived in Washington on Friday morning.

The National Weather Service said the first wave of the tsunami to hit the Washington Coast just after 7 a.m. measured 1.7 feet at La Push, abou

t half a foot at Neah Bay and Port Angeles, and 1.3 feet at Westport.

The tsunami advisory remained in effect for the Washington Coast and more waves were expected, said Kirby Cook, science and operations officer for the National Weather Service in Seattle. More waves were landing in California and that meant Washington and Oregon could expect more as well.

The advisory would remain in effect until the tsunami center in Alaska called it off, Cook said. The waves were triggered by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan.

About 60 people had evacuated to Grays Harbor Fire District No. 8 in Moclips. Volunteer firefighter Cathy Bisiack said a group of mostly elderly residents were enjoying a pancake breakfast and watching the news on TV when the waves started to hit the Washington Coast.

The evacuation in Moclips was recommended but not mandatory. Bisiack said many of the town’s residents as well as visitors stopped by the fire station for pancakes, sausage, orange juice and coffee.

“It was nice,” said Bisiack, who spent most of her Friday morning in the kitchen.

Jody Bourgeois, a University of Washington tsunami expert, is in Japan working with earthquake scientists, university officials said Friday morning.

“I felt the earthquake big time,” Bourgeois, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences who has done extensive tsunami research along Asia’s Pacific Coast, said in an e-mail message. “The shaking lasted almost three minutes and I got motion sickness. There were several large aftershocks.”

Bourgeois is working at the University of Hokkaido in Sapporo, about 300 miles north of the earthquake epicenter. She said the building in which she was working had recently been seismically retrofitted and survived the intense shaking.

“We spent several hours watching live video feeds while people ran in and out with new seismograms and tide gauge records. You can imagine that this place is abuzz,” Bourgeois wrote. “The videos look terrible, though it is scientifically interesting to me.”

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