Satellite Captures Massive Underwater Volcano Off Tonga, Tsunami Reaches All the Way to Oregon

A tsunami hit the Pacific island nation of Tonga on Saturday after an underwater volcanic eruption sent waves as far as Oregon.

The incredible eruption has been captured on satellite images and can be seen from space. “Probably the most explosive, intense volcanic eruption ever observed on satellite” Meteorologist and atmospheric scientist Matthew Cappucci tweeted. “Up to 100,000 feet long, an external gravity wave explosion, a huge mass of pyrocumulonimbus/volcanic thunder, tens of thousands of lightning bolts, a tsunami… wow.”

US National Weather Service forecaster William Churchill called it “one of the most incredible satellite animations I’ve ever seen… Waves on waves. Simply unbelievable. ”

The country’s largest island, Tongatapu, was hardest hit by the eruption 40 miles away. Video taken from the island shows waves crashing down the streets, flooding its capital Nuku’alofa, and forcing the evacuation of King Tupou VI of Tonga, according to CNN.

There have been no reports of casualties yet, but communication with the island remains intact.

Residents said they’ve seen waves crash through physical barriers as they crash into the islands, halting everything from choir rehearsals to dinner. Ash and smoke covered Nuku’alofa, and communication was cut off.

“My first instinct was to hide under the table,” Tongan Mere Taufa told New Zealand’s Stuff news agency. “I grabbed my sister, and yelled at my parents and everyone else in the house to do the same.”

“You can just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, get people to higher areas,” she added.

The National Weather Service issued tsunami advisories for virtually the entire west coast of the United States in the wake of the storm, asking residents to stay away from the coast. Its Portland office said waves of 1 to 3 feet high were expected along the Oregon and Washington coasts, while its Los Angeles office urged residents to be alert to currents.

“The first wave may not be the highest so my later waves will be bigger,” Portland NWS tweeted.

Tsunami warnings were also issued for Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, with seafarers ordered the evacuation of Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach.

This is the second eruption of the underwater volcano Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai in the past several days. Saturday’s explosion was smaller than Friday’s, as captured by the National Weather Service in Honolulu. Before that it broke out in 2014, forming a new island.


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