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Canada quake triggers Hawaii tsunami scare

By Alan Duke and Holly Yan, CNN
October 28, 2012 -- Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT)
Cars are seen on Ala Wai Blvd. in Honolulu's Waikiki in Hawaii on Saturday before the arrival of the first tsunami waves.
Cars are seen on Ala Wai Blvd. in Honolulu's Waikiki in Hawaii on Saturday before the arrival of the first tsunami waves.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: the largest wave was about 2.5 feet above ambient sea level
  • NEW: Tsunami advisory lifted
  • Hawaii evacuations are lifted
  • The tsunami was caused by a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in western Canada

(CNN) -- A tsunami warning for Hawaii, triggered by a powerful earthquake in Canada, proved nothing more than a pre-Halloween scare for thousands of people this weekend.

"The tourists are doing their best Chicken Little impressions," one CNN iReporter in West Maui, Hawaii, wrote early Sunday.

Sirens announced the tsunami warning across Hawaii on Saturday night, as thousands of revelers packed streets in Honolulu for the annual Hallowbaloo festival and many others in costumes headed to Halloween parties.

Restaurants, clubs and the festival immediately shut down and the parties turned into bumper-to-bumper traffic jams as residents headed to higher ground.

Visions of the devastating quake and tsunami that killed thousands in Japan in March 2011 fueled the fright, but the waves proved to be smaller and less powerful than feared.

While the warning said waves could surge between 3 and 6 feet, the largest wave, measured in Kahului on the island of Maui, was about 2.5 feet above ambient sea level, according to Gerard Fryer, senior geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

The evacuation orders for coastal residents and the tsunami warning were canceled by 1 a.m. in Hawaii (7 a.m. ET) and a tsunami advisory was put in its place. That advisory was lifted three hours later.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle said early Sunday that people who had evacuated could return to their homes. CNN affiliate Hawaii News Now reported that was also the case for coastal residents in various parts of the state.

Earlier, local television showed images of bumper-to-bumper traffic on roads leading from the coast to higher ground. About 80,000 people live in evacuation zones on the island of Oahu, where Honolulu is located.

Read the latest developments in our live blog

Even Hawaiians accustomed to tsunami warnings spared no effort in bracing for the worst.

Honolulu resident Victoria Shioi filled her bathtub with water, set her refrigerator to the coldest setting and gathered candles in case of water or power outages.

"Also backed up my computer and put the external (hard drive) in the waterproof safe," Shioi said.

The tsunami was spawned by a sizable earthquake in western British Columbia, prompting a local tsunami warning.

"A (magnitude) 7.7 is a big, hefty earthquake -- not something you can ignore," Fryer said. "It definitely would have done some damage if it had been under a city."

Instead, the quake struck about 139 kilometers (86 miles) south of Masset on British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands. No major damage was reported.

The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for western British Columbia from Vancouver to the southern panhandle of Alaska.

Canadians as far away as Prince Rupert, on mainland British Columbia, felt the quake.

Tanya Simonds said she felt as if her house was "sliding back and forth on mud," but didn't see any damage from the tremor.

Shawn Martin was at a movie theater when the quake struck.

"It just felt like the seats were moving. It felt like someone was kicking your seat," he said.

Martin said more than hundred cars headed toward a popular intersection in the city known for its higher ground.

Thousands of miles across the Pacific, residents in Hawaii did the same.

CNN's Joe Sutton, Jake Carpenter, Chandler Friedman and Maggie Schneider contributed to this report.

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