Surf Lifesavers placed warning sings on every beach up and down the NSW coast yesterday, similar to those here at Woolgoolga.
Surf Lifesavers placed warning sings on every beach up and down the NSW coast yesterday, similar to those here at Woolgoolga. Trevor Veale

A ripple effect of Tsunami warning

OUR coastline held firm under the force of the shock waves with an outgoing tide abating the threat of a tsunami.

With many in the region on tsunami watch yesterday, tidal surges of 10cm to 50cm lapped up on Coffs Coast beaches from 10am.

The largest of three minor pulses came at 1pm, having travelled 11,300 kilometres across the Pacific Rim from the epicentre of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake, off the coast of Chile.

Arriving as nothing more than a series of ripples, they were seen by large crowds gathered on the coast in the form of two high tide water marks on the shoreline.

By afternoon the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre had downgraded its potential tsunami threat.

“It did pose a decreased threat in that the tide turned, and as a result we were no longer talking about any kind of foreshores flooding,” JATWC spokesman Alasdair Hainsworth said.

“Things got a bit crazy about 11.30am or so with (readings) showing quite dramatic variations. It doesn’t sound a lot, but it generated quite significant currents,” he said.

The initial tsunami threat was expected to hit the east coast at high tide, around 9am, but arrived about 90 minutes later, when the tide started to recede.

Without knowing the magnitude of the threat, authorities enforced beach closures and emergency services were on standby.

Coffs Harbour head lifeguard Greg Hackfath said ocean conditions were closely monitored from local beaches before the danger passed.

“Surf Life Saving clubs right along the eastern seaboard were urged to keep an eye on the ocean and act on their own discretion after the initial warning period passed at 9am,” Mr Hackfath said.

“Along beaches in Coffs Harbour, Woolgoolga and Sawtell we told people to get out of the water,” he said.

“The danger to swimmers was not the size of the potential waves, but the velocity and water behind them.”

A marine warning issued by the tsunami centre at 9.45pm Saturday led to large crowds gathering at vantage points up and down the entire State overlooking the ocean. Coffs Harbour Marine Rescue reported a large number of boats took to the ocean yesterday.

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