View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 27 February 2010

End of day

As the tsunami, generated 16 hours ago, continues to make its way across the Pacific, the death toll in Chile rises - more than 200. The surge reached Hawaii some two hours ago and in places was nearly 1 metre above normal tidal level. In New Zealand, harbours reported that the water was like a washing machine and tidal flows running at 12 knots, a lot faster than normal. Apart from 5 fatalities on Juan Fernandez, off Chile, no casualties have so far been reported from the Pacific basin, resulting from the tsunami. It is also affecting the west coast of the US, with a surge of 5 feet above normal tidal levels reported in southern California. The wave should decline as it passes north towards Canada - the tsunami passed the US/Canadian border a few minutes ago.

The tsunami is expected to continue for another 15 hours or so, reaching the island of Taiwan and the Bering Strait by around 1500 GMT tomorrow.

If you're in an area under threat: please follow all advice and directions by local authorities. A tsunami is not a single wave and a threat will persist for several hours after the first wave has passed through.

Saturday afternoon

Today is a vast contrast to what the rest of the week was like. There is bright sunshine and hardly any wind. The ferry operator Calmac is busy catching up on two days of missed sailings due to the gale and swell. This morning at 6.15, the MV Muirneag left port to slowly amble across the Minch to Ullapool, followed 45 minutes later by the passenger ferry Isle of Lewis. The Muirneag took about 4 hours to cross the Minch, and returned at 4pm with some lorries. Quite a few of those would have been stuck on the A9 between the central belt and Inverness on account of the heavy snow of this week. The Isle of Lewis is due to return tonight at 9pm on her scheduled run.

I have spent the day closely monitoring the tsunami which is fanning out across the Pacific. The wave is currently traversing French Polynesia and will reach New Zealand in two hours' time. The Californian coast will see the first of this wave in just over 2 hours' time at 1202 PST, reaching the Canadian border 3 hours later. By that time, the tsunami is expected to have reached Australia, between Sydney and Brisbane. Hawaii is also due to see the wave, in 3 hours' time at 11.05 HST. At the moment, wave reports suggest that the tsunami is down to a matter of inches on passing the Mexican coastline.

Devastation in Chile is said to be great, with around 120 fatalities. Television reports show dramatic scenes of collapsed buildings and highway overpasses.

Saturday 27 February

A fairly bright day but with a lot of high cloud about, making it a hazy afternoon.

As is being extensively reported, a powerful earthquake, measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale, has occurred off the coast of Chile. The quake caused extensive damage in Chile and the deathtoll currently stands at 78. Because the tremor was centred below the sea, a tsunami was generated, which came ashore in Chile some 19 minutes after the initial shock. It was 2.34 metres, 7.7 feet, in height. This tsunami is now rolling across the Pacific, and the entire Pacific coastline is under warning for a tsunami.

Warnings are issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center for the entire Pacific basin, minus the Pacific coastline of the USA and Canada. These are covered by the West Coast and Alaska Warning Center. Finally, sections of the Australian coastline are under warning from their Bureau of Meteorology. It will take a full 24 hours from the time of the quake (0634 GMT) for the tsunami to make its way across the Pacific, in spite of its horizontal speed of 500 mph. All warning centers carry advice and information on what to do if you are in a warning area.