Crescent City, Calif. (AP) - The warnings traveled quickly across the Pacific in the middleof the night: An 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan spawned a deadlytsunami, and it was racing east Friday as fast as a jetliner.
Sirens blared in Hawaii. The West Coast pulled back from theshoreline, fearing the worst. People were warned to stay away fromthe beaches. Fishermen took their boats out to sea and safety.
The alerts moved faster than the waves, giving millions ofpeople across the Pacific Rim hours to prepare.
In the end, the damage was mainly to harbors and marinas inCalifornia and Oregon. Boats crashed into each other, some vesselswere pulled out to sea and docks were ripped out. Rescue crewssearched for a man who was swept out to sea while takingpictures.
None of the damage - in the U.S., South America or Canada - wasanything like the devastation in Japan.
The warnings - the second major one for the region in a year -and the response showed how far the earthquake-prone Pacific Rimhad come since a deadly tsunami caught much of Asia by surprise in2004.
"That was a different era," said Gerard Fryer, a geophysicistwith the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. "We got the warning outvery quickly. It would not have been possible to do it that fast in2004."
Within 10 minutes after Japan was shaken by its biggestearthquake in recorded history, the center had issued its warning.The offshore quake pushed water onto land, sometimes miles inland,sweeping away boats, cars, homes and people.
As the tsunami raced across the Pacific at 500 mph, the firstsirens began sounding across Hawaii late Thursday night.
Police went through the tourist mecca of Waikiki, warning of anapproaching tsunami. Hotels moved tourists from lower floors toupper levels. Some tourists ended up spending the night in theircars.
Across the islands, people stocked up on bottled water, cannedfoods and toilet paper. Authorities opened buildings to peoplefleeing low-lying areas. Fishermen took their boats out to sea,away from harbors and marinas where the waves would be mostintense.
Residents did the same last February, when an 8.8-magnitudequake in Chile prompted tsunami warnings. The waves did littledamage then, either.
Early Friday, the tsunami waves reached Hawaii, tossing boats inHonolulu. The water covered beachfront roads and rushed into hotelson the Big Island. Low-lying areas in Maui were flooded as 7-footwaves crashed ashore.
As the sun rose, people breathed a sigh of relief.
"With everything that could have happened and did happen inJapan, we're just thankful that nothing else happened," saidSabrina Skiles, who along with her husband spent a sleepless nightat his office in Maui. Their beachfront house was unscathed.
Many other Pacific islands also evacuated their shorelines for atime. In Guam, the waves broke two U.S. Navy submarines from theirmoorings, but tug boats brought them back to their pier.
In Oregon, the first swells to hit the U.S. mainland were barelynoticeable.
Sirens pierced the air in Seaside, a popular tourist town nearthe Washington state line. Restaurants, gift shops and otherbeachfront businesses stayed shuttered. Some residents moved to thehills nearby, gathering behind a house.
Albert Wood said he and his wife decided to leave their homelate Thursday night after watching news about the Japan quake - thefifth-largest earthquake since 1900.
Wood was expecting the waves to get bigger and more intense thanwhat he saw. Still, he shook his head as the cars lining the hillsbegan to drive west, into the lowlands adjacent to the shore.
"Just if you ask me, they're being too bold," Wood said. "It'sstill early. They're just not being cautious."
Erik Bergman was back at the shore by 9:30 in the morning.Roughly 100 feet away was a man playing with his dog. Two smallchildren chased seagulls.
"People aren't too nervous," Bergman said.
President Barack Obama said the Federal Emergency ManagementAgency was ready to come to the aid of any U.S. state or territorythat needed help. Coast Guard cutters and aircraft were readied torespond as soon as conditions allowed.
In Crescent City, Calif., just south of the Oregon border, theCoast Guard searched for a man who was swept out to sea. He wastaking photos near the mouth of the Klamath River. Two friends withhim were able to get back to land.
Sheriff's deputies went door to door at dawn to urge residentsto seek higher ground.
By midmorning, water rushing into the harbor had destroyed about35 boats and ripped chunks off the wooden docks, as marina workersand fishermen scrambled between surges to secure property.Officials estimated millions of dollars in damage.
When the water returned, someone would yell "Here comes anotherone!" to clear the area.
Ted Scott, a retired mill worker who lived in the city when a1964 tsunami killed 17 people on the West Coast, including 11 inCrescent City, watched the water pour into the harbor.
"This is just devastating. I never thought I'd see this again,"he said. "I watched the docks bust apart. It
buckled like a grahamcracker."
The waves, however, had not made it over a 20-foot break wallprotecting the rest of the city. No serious injuries wereimmediately reported.
On the central coast in Santa Cruz, loose fishing boats crashedinto one another and docks broke away from the shore. The waterrushed out as quickly as it poured in, leaving the boats tippedover in mud.
Some surfers ignored evacuation warnings and took advantage ofthe waves ahead of the tsunami.
"The tides are right, the swell is good, the weather is good,the tsunami is there," said William Hill, an off-duty Californiatrooper. "We're going out."
Scientists warned that the first tsunami waves are not alwaysthe strongest. The threat can last for several hours and peopleshould watch out for strong currents.
U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Ken Hudnut said residentsalong the coast should heed any calls for evacuation.
"Do the right thing," Hudnut said. "Be safe."
Associated Press writers contributing to this report includeAudrey McAvoy in Honolulu, Denise Petski and Daisy Nguyen in LosAngeles, Garance Burke in San Francisco, Kathy McCarthy in Seattle,Nigel Duara in Seaside, Ore., Jeff Barnard in Crescent City,Calif., Rob Gillies in Toronto, Alicia Chang in Pasadena, Calif.,Terry Tang, Michelle Price and Carson Walker in Phoenix. MarkNiesse contributed from Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Song reported fromHonolulu.
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