The Civil Air Patrol’s Hawaii Wing launched statewide tsunami warnings Friday following an 8.9 magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast. Eight Cessnas with full crews flew pre-assigned warning routes around the islands to look for anybody on or near the shoreline. The planes began sounding the tsunami warning at 10:18 p.m. Thursday Hawaii time, nearly five hours before the forecast tsunami arrival time at 3 a.m. Friday.
“It is a bit unusual for us,” said Capt. Anthony Ferrara, the incident commander for the CAP mission. “We don’t usually do nighttime ops but because the tsunami was due to hit early this morning, our pilots made sure Hawaii’s citizens were notified so they could safely move out of harm’s way.”
In addition to Hawaii, tsunami warnings or alerts were issued for dozens of places, including the West Coast of the United States and Alaska. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the tsunami struck the easternmost island of Kauai about 3 a.m., and was headed to other Hawaiian islands.
CAP’s three Kauai aircraft were first off the ground, meeting the wing standard of being ready to launch within one hour of an alert from the warning center. The wing’s other five planes launched soon afterward. Aircrews flew pre-determined routes around the remote shoreline areas of the islands, sounding the tsunami warning siren and broadcasting a voice warning via a speaker system attached to the outside lower portion of each plane’s fuselage.
Several of the aircrews launched multiple flights. All aircraft were on the ground at 5 a.m., standing by for possible damage assessment flights after daybreak.