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Vancouver Island communities feel tsunami effects of undersea volcano eruption near Tonga

Tofino closed its beaches; tides there appeared to be higher
The Dallas Road waterfront in Victoria on Saturday morning, when a tsunami advisory was in effect. TIMES COLONIST. Jan. 15, 2022

An underwater volcano off Tonga prompted emergency agencies to issue a tsunami advisory for Vancouver Island and much of the B.C. coast Saturday morning, cancelling it in early afternoon after the threat had passed.

The advisory was lifted shortly after 2:30 p.m. on Saturday by the Emergency Management B.C. The District of Tofino urged citizens to continue to be cautious around the water and on beaches.

In Tofino, surfer Devin Baldwin stayed on shore rather than take any risks. He’s normally on the water every day conditions permit. He is planning to surf on Sunday now that the advisory has been lifted.

Along with other residents who signed up for Tofino’s emergency notification system, he was alerted in the morning about the chance of dangerous swells or currents.

Beaches were closed in Tofino and people were told not to go near waterways. No evacuation orders were issued in B.C.

Live-stream video from the Pacific Sands Beach Resort showed people at the beach Saturday morning.

Port Alberni also warned people to stay away from the shoreline, harbours and marinas.

Baldwin suspects that the far-away eruption had some impact on Tofino area beaches.

He said it was odd to see that low tide at 8:50 a.m. was higher than it would normally be.

Also unusual was that many large logs, weighing hundreds of pounds, had been pushed up the beach by a high tide, Baldwin said. A regular tide at this time of year usually wouldn’t move logs to such an extent, he said. “They would just stay there.”

Baldwin works at the front desk at Bella Pacifica Campground in Tofino which is closed at this time due to the season.

He did not see surfers on the water Saturday but said there were two paddleboarders quite far from shore.

In Victoria, Dallas Road was quiet on Saturday morning. A Victoria police SUV visited Clover Point for a short time and joggers and dog walkers were out on paths and seas were calm.

According to the 11:15 a.m. U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center water levels rose by 16 cm at Tofino, by 18 cm at Bamfield, and by 29 cm at Winter Harbour on Vancouver Island’s northwest coast.

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said in a statement Saturday morning that the advisory had been expected to remain for several hours.

“The risk is limited to increased tidal currents.” But until it the advisory was lifted, people were told to stay away from beaches, shorelines and marinas, and follow the directions of local governments.

The underwater eruption prompted several communities to activate emergency plans.

“Emergency Management B.C. immediately activated the Provincial Emergency Co-ordination Centre, and all provincial regional operations centres on the coast. The agency has also been supporting local governments and First Nations with updates and a series of co-ordination calls,” Farnworth said.

“Two Pacific Emergency Notification System alerts have been issued to emergency managers and media to update on this event.

“Local communities are communicating this information to residents as per their emergency protocols for an advisory of this type.

The advisory had covered the Island’s west coast and northeast, the central coast, the Juan de Fuca Strait, and Haida Gwaii.