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Tsunami Alert (Now officially cancelled)

July 15th, 2009 at 08:43pm

The Bureau of Meteorology have issued a tsunami alert for the south-east coast of Australia, following a magnitude 7.9 earthquake off the coast of New Zealand earlier this evening.

The Bureau are not expecting much encroachment on to land by the water, but do have concerns for the “marine environment”.

New South Wales:

Tsunami warning for the marine environment for parts of NEW SOUTH WALES.

Threatened areas extend from Gabo Island to Seal Rocks including Batemans Bay,
Bellambi, Botany Bay, Gabo Island, Jervis Bay, Kiama, Merimbula, Montague
Island, Moruya, Moruya Heads, Narooma, Nelson Bay, Norah Head, Shell Harbour,
Sydney Harbour, Ulladulla and Wollongong.

Possibility of DANGEROUS WAVES, STRONG OCEAN CURRENTS AND SOME LOCALISED
OVERFLOW ONTO THE IMMEDIATE FORESHORE for several hours from 09:45 pm (EST)
Wednesday.

Although major evacuations are not required, people are advised to get out of
the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge.

Victoria:

Tsunami warning for the marine environment for parts of VICTORIA.

Threatened areas extend from Lakes Entrance to Gabo Island including Gabo
Island, Lakes Entrance, Mallacoota and Point Hicks.

Possibility of DANGEROUS WAVES, STRONG OCEAN CURRENTS AND SOME LOCALISED
OVERFLOW ONTO THE IMMEDIATE FORESHORE for several hours from 10:15 pm (EST)
Wednesday.

Although major evacuations are not required, people are advised to get out of
the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge.

Tasmnaia:

Tsunami warning for the marine environment for parts of TASMANIA.

Threatened areas extend from Northern Tip of Flinders Island to Low Rocky
Point including Bicheno, Derwent Estuary, Eddystone Point, Flinders Island,
Hobart, Low Rocky Point, Maatsuyker Island, Maria Island, Orford, Scamander,
St Helens, Storm Bay and Channel, Swansea, Tasman Island and Wineglass Bay.

Possibility of DANGEROUS WAVES, STRONG OCEAN CURRENTS AND SOME LOCALISED
OVERFLOW ONTO THE IMMEDIATE FORESHORE for several hours from 09:30 pm (EST)
Wednesday.

Although major evacuations are not required, people are advised to get out of
the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge.

Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island are also affected. The details for Norfolk Island are barely in existence, however Lord Howe Island is covered by a land and marine alert, prompting the Bureau to request the use of the Standard Emergency Warning Signal…in other words, media on Lord Howe Island should now be in full emergency mode.

Tsunami warning for LORD HOWE ISLAND.

An undersea earthquake of magnitude 7.9 (Latitude 45.960S Longitude 166.470E )
has occurred at 07:22 PM EST on Wednesday 15 July 2009 off W. COAST OF S.
ISLAND, N.Z.

For low-lying coastal areas there is a threat of MAJOR LAND INUNDATION,
FLOODING, DANGEROUS WAVES AND STRONG OCEAN CURRENTS for several hours from
09:30 pm (EST) Wednesday.

People in affected areas are strongly advised by the LORD HOWE ISLAND POLICE to
go to higher ground or at least one kilometre inland.

For all threatened areas, people are advised to get out of the water and move
away from the immediate water’s edge.

Next update will be issued by 09:05 PM EST on Wednesday 15 July 2009

Further updates are expected shortly after 9:15pm AEST for the rest of the affected areas.

Update 8:51pm: New Zealand’s NewsTalk ZB notes that New Zealand is also on Tsunami alert, and that NZ officials believe that the quake was only of 6.6 magnitude with a 6.1 aftershock. End Update

Update 8:58pm: Fox News have more details in the quake

Police in the town of Tuatapere on South Island, where the earthquake was centered, say they have reports of minor cracks in buildings and stock falling from supermarket shelves. But they have received no reports of serious damage or injuries so far.

The quake was felt widely across the South Island.

End Update

Update 9:06pm: There’s something you don’t see everyday. ABC News using AAP copy. The ABC normally avoid AAP as if it was carrying some contagious disease. End Update

Update 9:09pm: 2GB interrupting their half-time State of Origin wrap with a report from Jason Morrison. He notes that the time of alert has apparently passed without incident in New Zealand, indicating that a tsunami may not have been generated. Meanwhile the Bureau are late with their updated Lord Howe alert. End Update

Update 9:16pm: An evacuation has been ordered on Lord Howe Island, but the Bureau’s warning doesn’t have anything else new to say.

For low-lying coastal areas there is a threat of MAJOR LAND INUNDATION,
FLOODING, DANGEROUS WAVES AND STRONG OCEAN CURRENTS for several hours from
09:30 pm (EST) Wednesday.
[..]
– The NSW STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE has ordered the evacuation of low-lying parts
of coastal towns and villages.

– People are strongly advised to go to higher ground, at least ten metres
above sea level, or if possible move at least one kilometre away from all
beaches and the water’s edge of harbours and coastal estuaries.

– Take only essential items that you can carry including important papers,
family photographs and medical needs.

– It may be in your own interests to walk to safety if possible to avoid
traffic jams.

– If you cannot leave the area take shelter in the upper storey of a sturdy
brick or concrete multi-storey building.

– Boats in harbours, estuaries or shallow coastal water should return to
shore. Secure your boat and move away from the waterfront.

– Vessels already at sea should stay offshore in deep water until further
advised.

– Do not go to the coast to watch the tsunami, as there is the possibility of
dangerous, localised land inundation of the immediate foreshore.

– Check that your neighbours have received this advice.

End Update

Update 9:23pm: The Bureau’s updated east coast warnings keep the warnings at “marine inundation” level. Meanwhile TVNZ have more details of the quake:

The quake was centred 90 kilometres north-west of Tuatapere, in Southland, but was felt strongly by residents in Dunedin, Invercargill, Timaru, Wanaka and even as far north as Christchurch and Westport.

An Invercargill man said the quake lasted at least a minute. “Things just started to rattle a bit, then the house started to sway.”

He and his wife got their three young children out of bed and huddled under the dining table to wait it out.

Cracks had appeared around several door frames, he said.

Central Southland man Warren MacPherson said a hanging light in his house would have been swaying a good six inches each way.

He was on the phone when the quake struck and rushed outside.

“By geez, there was a fair bit of movement,” he said.

Invercargill police Inspector Olaf Jensen said there were no immediate reports of damage in the southern city, but the quake was significant enough to send staff into doorways.

He described it was a strong, rolling quake rather than a sharp jolt.

There have been some power cuts but so far there are no reports of major damage.

There are reports that the quake shook stock off the shelves of shops in Te Anau and Queenstown

End Update

Update 9:29pm: The Bureau have updated their New South Wales warning, although I can’t immediately see any difference. None-the-less, the current expected times for the tsunami are:

Port Kembla after 09:45 pm (EST) Wednesday
Batemans Bay after 09:45 pm (EST) Wednesday
Eden after 09:45 pm (EST) Wednesday
Sydney after 10:00 pm (EST) Wednesday
Newcastle after 10:15 pm (EST) Wednesday

Now waiting for news from Lord Howe Island.
End Update

Update 9:41pmhas been cancelled in New Zealand, but it remains in place in Australia.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says a tsunami generated after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake off of New Zealand is small and poses no threat.

The warning center says no destructive waves are headed for New Zealand’s western coastline after a tsunami warning was issued earlier.

The waves generated are less than 8 inches (20 centimeters) in height and the warning was canceled after about an hour.

Whilst this is good news for NZ, it doesn’t necessarily mean Australia will get the same good news as tsunamis can affect different areas differently.
End Update

Update 9:51pm: 2GB incorrectly report that the tsunami alert has been downgraded to a “maritime alert”. The east coast alert has been a maritime alert all along…End Update

Update 10:00pm: TVNZ reports that New Zealand officials have brought their quake readings in line with international readings, declaring it a 7.8 magnitude quake. End Update

Update 10:03pm: It’s times like these that you realise just how horribly useless Twitter really is unless something actually happens. Right now it’s filled with people who have only just realised that we have a tsunami warning, and are noting that they have no idea why we have a tsunami warning, as well as people misinterpreting NZ’s cancellation as a cancellation of Australia’s warning, plus an endless stream of people linking to the weather bureau, and the rest of them refuting other posts, claiming that there are no evacuations (so what’s happening on Lord Howe?) or sending joking tweets to the ABC. End Update

Update 10:10pm: Website appears to be functioning normally again. Apologies for the earlier difficulties. Currently waiting for the next update to the Lord Howe warning…it’s late again. End Update

Update 10:13pm: Still no updates from the Bureau, and where have AAP disappeared to? Nothing from them since their widely quoted 8:39pm story. I’m taking a five minute break. Back shortly…hopefully we have some new news by then. End Update

Update 10:26pm: No updates from BOM or AAP. No citizen reports of tsunami activity yet either.

Update 10:32pmEnd Update

Update 10:39pm: Well that explains why people are confused. SBS News has a headline which claims that the Australian tsunami warning is cancelled, but their story is about the Pacific Tsunami Centre cancelling their warning, which does not in any way relate to Australia. The Hawaii based Pacific Tsunami Centre do not have jurisdiction over Australia…the Bureau of Meteorology do. That said, still no word from the Bureau, and still no report of tsunami activity.
End Update

Update 10:43pm: As mellowmarquis points out in the comments, please don’t go sightseeing. Tsunamis, small or not, can have extremely powerful tides.

And cyberdoc, yep, much easier to know about the football result than what’s happening on Lord Howe. I don’t think any of their news agencies have a web presence either. End Update

Update 10:50pm: BOM website updated, some updates twenty minutes old though. It’s official, the tsunami warning is still current in Australia, but there is no new information to report.

To recap. Marine and low-lying land areas at risk on Lord Howe Island. Official evacuations are in effect. No reports of damage or tsunami activity yet. Elsewhere on the Australian east coast, marine areas at risk, evacuations not mandatory.
End Update

Update 10:57pm: And a big thank you to mellowmarquis who has pointed me in the direction of the very bottom of the Tasmania alert:

Sea level observations have confirmed a tsunami has been generated.

Tsunami has been observed at Spring Bay at 10:05pm.

BOM also report in New South Wales a tsunami at “Port Kembla at 10:06pm”.
End Update

Update11:03pm: I’m seeing a report of the Spring Bay tsunami being 25cm. I can’t find a source for this though. End Update

Update 11:05pm: 25cm report seems to come from BNO News who say the report comes directly from the Bureau’s Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre. End Update

Update 11:09pm: AAP have woken up. Nothing useful from them though. Perhaps they can find a correspondent on Lord Howe? End Update

Update 11:18pm: 2GB have a BOM spokeswoman on the air now. Tsunami travelled at approximately 800km/h according to them. More to follow. End Update

Update 11:20pm: BOM spokeswoman says caravans in Kiama near the coast have been evacuated. “Largest waves are not necessarily the first waves [often] a few hours later”. End Update

Update 11:28pm: More technical difficulties. It looks like it’s being caused by a backup running on the server. Unfortunately I don’t have the required access to kill the backup…only enough to see that it’s happening. End Update

Update 11:32pm: Fox News quote BNO News:

Australian emergency services ordered the evacuation of low-lying parts of coastal towns and villages along Lord Howe Island, BNONews reported.

“People are strongly advised to go to higher ground, at least ten metres above sea level, or if possible move at least one kilometre away from all beaches and the water’s edge of harbours and coastal estuaries,” BNONews quoted NSW State Emergency Service.

End Update

Update 11:37pm: BOM have told ABC Radio that no inundation is expected, but strong currents remain a concern.

“The main concern at the moment is a strong current,” a spokeswoman told ABC Local Radio.

“We’re not expecting anything in the way of major land inundation.

“We’re not expecting it to increase to the extent of being a wave that comes onshore.”

The spokeswoman says while people are not being evacuated, those in affected areas are advised to move off the beach.

“I’d recommend getting off the beach, it’s not a matter of moving to really high ground,” she said.

“The threat is on the water.”

The Bureau of Meteorology has advised people to get out of the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge of harbours, coastal estuaries, rock platforms, and beaches.

It says the conditions on the water could last for several hours.

“Strong currents can go on for several hours so to be on the safe side it really would be a good idea to moor the boat,” the spokeswoman said.

“If there is anyone far away from the coast [out to sea] you might be better to stay there.”

End Update

Update 11:43pm: And we’re kinda back online. I’ll keep writing this stuff in the background anyway. End Update

Update 11:47pm: BOM website behind again, but Sky News (who have probably received a fax) say that the Bureau’s tsunami centre has cancelled the warnings for Australia.

A tsunami warning for Australia and New Zealand has been cancelled with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre saying the wave is small and poses no threat.
[..]
The Centre says the waves generated from the quake are less than 20 centimetres high.

End Update

Update 11:51: I just called the Tsunami warning centre number. The automated messages say that the tsunami alert is still in place. Waiting for confirmation one way or the other. End Update

Update 11:58pmEnd Update

Update midnight: 2UE and 2GB both say the warning is still in effect. 2GB claim major risk on Lord Howe still exists. That said, we have now passed midnight, and the waves were expected to hit by now. We’ll wait and see. End Update

Update 12:03amEnd Update

Update 12:10am: We have an aftershock, according to BNO News.

A new aftershock with a preliminary magnitude of 5.6 has struck off the west coast of New Zealand.

End Update

Update 12:18am: Lord Howe alert has been downgraded to a marine alert, like the east coast ones.

TSUNAMI THREAT HAS BEEN DOWNGRADED. A tsunami warning is now current for the
MARINE ENVIRONMENT for LORD HOWE ISLAND.

However, there is still the possibility of DANGEROUS WAVES, STRONG OCEAN
CURRENTS AND SOME LOCALISED OVERFLOW ONTO THE IMMEDIATE FORESHORE from now
until 1:00am EST Thursday.

Although major evacuations are not required, people are advised to get out of
the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge.

Next update will be issued by 01:14 AM EST on Thursday 16 July 2009
[..]
Sea level observations have confirmed a tsunami has been generated. Reports
indicate a change in the size of the threat resulting in a decrease in the
level of warnings for LORD HOWE ISLAND.

Tsunami threat levels are expected to gradually decrease from 1:00am EST
Thursday.

No reports from the Bureau about damage on Lord Howe, in fact nothing more than the previous reports of the tsunami at Spring Bay, Tasmania and Port Kembla, New South Wales. All areas still on alert until 1am.
End Update

Update 12:45am: AAP report that the Bureau are still concerned, and have told Sky News as much…and yet Sky News still have the erroneous “warning cancelled” story on their site. From AAP:

The Bureau of Meteorology is warning people to stay away from coastal regions this morning .. with the possibility of dangerous currents and waves after last night’s earthquake off the New Zealand coast.

Bureau spokesman ROB WEBB has told Sky News .. there isn’t a big wall of water coming towards Australia .. but the potential for swirling currents still exists.

Mr WEBB’s also urged Lord Howe Island residents to remain on higher ground .. and says people hoping to spot large waves should stay away from the coast.

He says Norfolk Island’s less likely to be affected because it’s further above sea level.

End Update

Update 1:03am: 2UE and 2GB both say the alert is still in place. I’m now waiting for an update from the Bureau. It’s due in about ten minutes, so we’ll probably hear something in about 30 minutes. End Update

Update 1:14am: All tsunami warnings have now been cancelled by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Small unusual waves may continue but are NOT now expected to be damaging.

Tsunami warnings [..] are therefore CANCELLED.

No updates or further warnings will be issued unless the situation changes.

Your local emergency management authority will advise the All Clear when it’s
safe to return to coastal areas.

And with that I bid you all a good night.
End Update

Samuel

Entry Filed under: General News

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8 Comments

  • 1. mellowmarquis  |  July 15th, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Really appreciate the updates. Couldn’t agree more about twitter.
    Was looking around for some insightful info, and very greatful for your updates.

    Cheers mate….keep up the good work!

    BTW – Though this is most likely a storm in a tea-cup (pardon the pun!), it’s worth mentioning that anyone stupid enough to consider sight-seeing would be advised to consider the risks….

  • 2. cyberdoc  |  July 15th, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Stating the obvious really but its easier to know more about Queensland’s loss tonight than wether Lord Howe Island still exists!

  • 3. mellowmarquis  |  July 15th, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Channel 10 news also reported the NZ warning was cancelled and appeared to dismiss the story thereafter…..ABC and NINE reported the alert basically AAP style, with mention of Lord Howe and Norfolk alerts.

  • 4. mellowmarquis  |  July 15th, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    “Tsunami has been observed at Spring Bay in TAS at 10:05pm and at Port Kembla at 10:06pm” but no detail………….as per BOM report

  • 5. Samuel  |  July 15th, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Ah, that’ll teach me to skim. Thanks for that mellowmarquis

  • 6. legshagger  |  July 16th, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Wow – updates on updates! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more updated topic! What does this mean for Canberra? Will Lake Burley Griffin rise up and engulf Parliament House? Or will the lake itself be swallowed up by global warming?

  • 7. Samuel  |  July 16th, 2009 at 1:21 am

    I haven’t covered something with that many updates since the various elections. There’s a certain sense of enjoyment in covering a story like that.

  • 8. legshagger  |  July 16th, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Yes, it was a veritable tsunami of updates … although based on your previous discredited calls on The Melbourne Cup and poltical elections, the people of Invergarcill are not beleiving a word of your “all clear” and have evacuated their sleepy hamlet for high ground on the North Island!


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