Tsunami swamps Hawaii shores, damages Calif. Bays

HONOLULU - (AP) - Tsunami waves swamped Hawaii beaches andseverely damaged harbors in California after devastating Japan andsparking evacuations throughout the Pacific.

Water rushed up on roadways and into hotel lobbies on the BigIsland and low-lying areas in Maui were flooded as 7-foot wavescrashed ashore. Large waves also hit the U.S. western coast,shaking loose boats that weren't moved in time and tearing apartwooden docks in at least two California harbors.

The waves didn't make it over a 20-foot break wall protectingthe rest of the city, and no serious injuries or home damage wasimmediately reported.

Scientists warned that the first tsunami waves are not alwaysthe strongest, and officials said people in Hawaii and along theWest Coast should remain vigilant. Still, the tsunami warning wasdowngraded to an advisory in Hawaii, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie saidthe islands were "fortunate almost beyond words."

The tsunami, spawned by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan,killed hundreds as it slammed the eastern coast of Japan, sweepingaway boats, cars, homes and people as widespread fires burned outof control. It raced across the Pacific at 500 mph - as fast as ajetliner - before hitting Hawaii and the West Coast. Sirens soundedfor hours on the islands and the West Coast before dawn androadways and beaches were mostly empty as the tsunami struck.

Damage estimates in Crescent City were in the millions, and moreboats and docks were hit in Santa Cruz on California's centralcoast. Surges are expected throughout the afternoon.

President Barack Obama said the Federal Emergency ManagementAgency is ready to come to the aid of any U.S. states orterritories who need help.

The warnings issued by the tsunami center covered an areastretching the entire western coast of the United States and Canadafrom the Mexican border to Chignik Bay in Alaska.

Many islands in the Pacific evacuated, but officials later toldresidents to go home because the waves weren't as bad as expected.

Large waves didn't materialize, and by noon coastal residentswere expected to be able to return home.

The Honolulu International Airport remained open but seven oreight jets bound for Hawaii turned around, including someoriginating from Japan, the state Department of Transportationsaid. All harbors were closed and vessels were ordered to leave theharbor.

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