Feb. 27, 2010— -- Officials with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) have given the "all clear" for Hawaii more than seven hours after ordering the first statewide evacation of coastal areas in 16 years.
"The wave heights are now below danger levels everywhere," announced PTWC's Gerard Fryer just before 2 p.m. Hawaiian time.
"There is a lingering threat, but no longer reason to keep people out of evacuation zones," he said.
Tsunami waves, smaller than initially expected, surged on Hawaiian beaches today more than 15 hours after being triggered by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile.
The PTWC confirmed the tsunami reached Hawaii just after 11:30 a.m. local time, 4:30 p.m. ET. The first wave to hit the Big Island measured 1 meter, or roughly 3 feet.
Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle had said waves as high as 7½ feet could strike the Hilo area on the Big Island while much smaller 1½-foot waves were expected in Honolulu Harbor on Oahu.
No major damage or loss of life was immediately reported on any of the Hawaiian Islands.
"It's beginning to look like we escaped by the skin of our teeth," Fryer said. "I think we've dodged a bullet."
After passing Hawaii, the waves continued moving north toward the other Pacific islands and onward toward Asia.
"We will analyze this thing to death," said Fryer of the center's forecast and decision to order evacuations of all coastal areas. "But we think it was right to issue a warning."
The state had significant lead time in preparing for the tsunami, sounding alarms to evacuate coastal areas starting at 6 a.m. local time. It was the state's first widespread evacuation since 1994.
Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said earlier today that the state was "well prepared."