Japan-Level Tsunami Damage Unlikely in Hawaii

Adrienne LaFrance/Civil Beat

The images of massive tsunami waves crashing through the countryside, tossing cars like toys and erasing entire towns broadcast to the world from Japan last week are unlikely to be replicated in Hawaii even under the worst set of circumstances, experts say.

A federally-funded University of Hawaii study to model the "credible worst case scenario" for a tsunami hitting the Hawaiian Islands has already been used to update Oahu's evacuation maps, while the Big Island claims its maps were already sufficiently conservative to require no changes.

Kwok Fai Cheung, a professor in the University of Hawaii's Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering, designed the worst-case inundation models based on the largest Hawaii tsunamis during the last century and hypothetical events originating at earthquake hotspots near and far.

"The maps are based on the five historical events and then we did additional analysis to confirm the maps are OK for a significant event from elsewhere in the Pacific Basin," he told Civil Beat Monday.

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