Vancouver Island tsunami advisory lifted after volcanic eruption near Tonga

The District of Tofino closed all of its beaches and officials up and down Vancouver Island's west coast warned people to stay away from the water amid a tsunami advisory on Saturday.

A tsunami advisory is not a warning. No evacuations were ordered and no parts of the shore were expected to be inundated. However, strong currents and waves were expected to last for several hours Saturday, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center.

Geoff Johnson has lived on the Island's west coast since 2007. He said the effects of the tsunami were visible in local harbours on Saturday, but not particularly dramatic.

"It doesn't come in as a wave, per se, but it's as if the tide goes up a foot or two in a matter of a couple of minutes and then goes back down again shortly," he told CTV News.

"With the Japan earthquake (in 2011), we actually went from a full, bottomed-out low tide to a full high tide and back in a space of 20 minutes."

Johnson took the advisory as an opportunity to capture drone footage of the surf from a safe distance. 

The advisory issued Saturday morning covered four zones in B.C. following a volcanic eruption in the Pacific Basin near the Tonga Islands.

Zone A covers the north coast including Haida Gwaii, while Zone B covers the central and northeast Vancouver Island coasts, which include Kitimat, Bella Coola and Port Hardy.

The advisory also applied to the outer west coast of Vancouver Island from Cape Scott to Port Renfrew, dubbed Zone C, as well as Zone D, which spans the Juan de Fuca Strait from Jordan River to Greater Victoria including the Saanich Peninsula.

The advisory for Zones A and B was lifted shortly after noon. It was lifted for all zones by 3 p.m.

Tofino Mayor Dan Law said there had been no reports of damage or major incidents in the town during the advisory.

"It's pretty mellow," he said. "I think it was certainly a good exercise in emergency preparedness."

Provincial Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the risk was limited to increased tidal currents and residents should stay away from beaches, shorelines and marinas and follow local government guidance until the advisory is lifted.

He said several communities along the coast activated their emergency plans overnight.

“Emergency Management BC immediately activated the Provincial Emergency Co-ordination Centre, and all provincial regional operations centres on the coast,” he said in a release. “The agency has also been supporting local governments and First Nations with updates and a series of co-ordination calls.”

Two emergency notification alerts were issued to emergency managers, and local communities are informing residents as per their emergency protocols for an advisory of this type, Farnworth said.

“Although this is not a tsunami warning, this event demonstrates that coastal warning systems do work.”

Sylvan Daugert, co-fire chief in the village of Massett, B.C. said he received just one of the two public alerts sent to residents shortly after the center issued its bulletins.

“So that's disappointing,” he said.

But Daugert, who is also the public works superintendent in the village, said he is less concerned than he was initially after learning that wave heights in Alaska reached 35 centimetres or less.

The National Tsunami Warning Center also issued advisories for the coast of California to the Mexican border and the coasts of Oregon and Washington and the Aleutian Islands.

With files from The Canadian Press