Tongan geologists onsite as the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupts. | Credit: Tonga Geological Services, Government of Tonga

[Update: Jan. 16, 11:30 a.m.] The tsunami advisory was lifted locally after midnight on January 16, 2022.

[Original Story] Residents of Santa Barbara — as well as the entire West Coast of the United States all the way up to Alaska — were advised to stay away from the shore and remain on higher ground in the wake of a tsunami advisory triggered by the eruption of an underwater volcano early Saturday morning off the coast of the Pacific island of Tonga. The mid-ocean volcano is roughly 5,000 miles from California, and no evacuations were ordered.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s office issued alerts of waves one to two feet high. In Alaska waves as high as 3.3 feet have been reported, and in the state of Washington, they’ve been a foot higher. In Santa Cruz, the waves have been such that trucks along the waterfront were found partially submerged. Hawaii had been initially included in the warning but was later exempt when it turned out the waves proved smaller than initially projected.

A colorized satellite image shows smoke and ash exploding from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano. | Credit: University of Wisconsin, Madison, CIMSS

In Santa Barbara, the tsunami waves peaked at 1.9 feet at about 10 a.m., and 2.3 feet at 3:20 p.m., on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. The advisory delayed the start time for the Rincon Classic surf competition, which opened Saturday morning with an expectation of more than head-height waves.

Caution and common sense on the ocean and along the beach are still being urged due to rip currents. The advisory will be in effect for as long as three hours after initial surges arrive. More information is at

Clarification: The volcano erupted on Friday and on Saturday, with the second eruption apparently causing the tsunami warnings. Tonga Geological Services put the first ash plume at 4:20 a.m. on January 14, and the second eruption was noted at 7:20 a.m. on January 15; Tonga is 21 hours ahead of California.

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