PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – On Saturday, January 15, a volcanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean forced a tsunami advisory for the entire West Coast. Despite being told to stay away, some people headed straight to Oregon’s beaches to see the waves.
Beaches along the Oregon coastline warned tourists and residents of the danger, including “strong currents and dangerous waves.” With the threat of water potentially rising 1-3 feet higher than normal, the National Weather Service advised people to stay out of the water and away from the shore.
However, people who live and work along the coast told Nexstar’s KOIN that after they heard the siren and got the emergency alert on their phones, they saw people doing the exact opposite of what the National Weather Service advised.
“The next thing you know, we hear people outside and they’re running to the beach – which I don’t understand, I’d go the other way,” Seaside resident Esther Blackburn said.
When asked if people running towards the potential danger concerned her, Blackburn said it did.
“Yeah, a little bit. I mean, I feel like [if] there was an actual tsunami and we’re trying to evacuate and everyone is going toward the beach, that would cause problems with people trying to actually follow the warning and leave,” Blackburn said. “Not to mention, those waves can just grab you and pull you in.”
The volcano, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, erupted Friday evening beneath the ocean’s surface and sent ash, steam and gas more than 10 miles into the sky, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
Satellite imagery showed the 161-mile radius of the eruption from space.
The NWS Tsunami Warning System issues a tsunami advisory when a tsunami with the potential to generate strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or very near the water is imminent, expected or occurring.
Dave Snider, the tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said it was very unusual for a volcanic eruption to affect an entire ocean basin, and the spectacle was both “humbling and scary.”
The tsunami waves caused damage to boats as far away as New Zealand and Santa Cruz, California, but did not appear to cause any widespread damage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.