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Tsunami brushes Alaska coast; no damage reported

We'll be compiling updates on the Alaska tsunami situation here. For current advisory information, go to the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center at http://wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov/

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Updated 11:30 a.m.: Sitka officials said they got a couple of calls from the National Weather Service before midnight. "They weren't predicting a huge wave. They gave us an estimated (arrival) time of 4:25 this morning," said Sitka Fire Chief Dave Miller.

He said the city activated its emergency calling network at 3:30 a.m. to notify Sitka residents who signed up for the tsunami warning service. "In theory, every phone was called. We opened up the high school and junior high for people to hang out," Miller said.

Roughly 40 to 50 people showed up in each building, and at 4:25 a.m., Miller and others went to look for a wave. Nothing happened, he said.

But at about 7:15 a.m., a Sitka resident called up after spotting unusual waves stacking up behind each other, Miller said.

Partly because the waves are striking the city waterfront at low tide, they haven't caused any damage. But some of the waves reached about 30 inches tall and were "very visible," he said.

"It's been going on for about three hours like that," Miller said shortly before 11 a.m.

Kodiak harbor master Marty Owen described the tsunami as a non-event in his town. He said he spent most of the night worrying about it, but the status of the alert was never elevated to a warning.

"We've observed nothing here in Kodiak. ... I'm grateful," Owen said.

King Cove harbor master Dave Bash reported a 2-foot tide fluctuation. It started about 4 a.m. and is tapering off, he said. "There' been no problems whatsoever," Bash said.

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Update: 10:45: A tsunami advisory remains in effect this morning for all of coastal Alaska, where small tsunami waves have occurred after the devastating earthquake and aftershocks in Japan.

No damage has been reported from strong waves or unusual currents, according to state emergency officials.

A more serious tsunami warning remains in effect this morning in the sparsely populated coastal areas of the Aleutian chain between Amchitka Island and Attu.

The biggest tsunami reported in Alaska after the Japanese quakes measured roughly 5 feet over usual sea level. It was reported at Shemya, in the Aleutians, at around midnight. Sitka, in Southeast Alaska, saw a tsunami wave this morning roughly one foot above usual seas, according to the Alaska Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management.

Small tsunami waves less than two feet above normal sea level also have been reported in Adak and Nikolski, according to the tsunami warning center.

Three passenger planes headed from the Lower 48 to Japan diverted to the Anchorage International Airport on Thursday night and early Friday. The planes remain on the tarmac and the passengers were sent to local hotels pending alternate arrangements, according to John Parrot, the airport manager. Several Japanese airports remain closed.

A tsunami advisory is issued "due to the threat of a potential tsunami, which may produce strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or near the water." A warning means there is an imminent threat..

Reach Elizabeth Bluemink at ebluemink@adn.com or 257-4317 or Sean Cockerham contributed at scockerham@adn.com or 257-4344.

By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK and SEAN COCKERHAM

Anchorage Daily News

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