Hawaii braced Saturday for a potentially damaging tsunami, after a large earthquake off Chile sent waves across the Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning — its highest alert — for Hawaii, where incoming waves could cause destroy along the coastlines across the island chain. A warning was also in effect for Guam, American Samoa and dozens of other Pacific islands.

A lower-grade tsunami advisory was in effect for the coast of New york and an Alaskan coastal area from Kodiak to Attu islands. Authorities in Australia did not issue a warning, but asked residents to stay away from the coast.

The first waves were expected to arrive in Hawaii at 11:19 a.m. Saturday (4:19 p.m. EST).

The Ewa Beach, Hawaii-based center called for “urgent action to protect lives and property” in Hawaii, which is among 53 nations and territories subject to tsunami warnings.

“The main thing is they require everyone to take this event seriously,” said Charles McCreery, director of the center.

Mr. McCreery said they didn’t know how gigantic the waves will be, but they expected them to be the largest to hit Hawaii since 1964.

The state planned to sound warning sirens statewide at 6 a.m. to alert residents and tourists of the incoming tsunami, said Shelly Ichishita, spokeswoman for state civil defense.

“If you’re in an evacuation zone, police or civil defense volunteers would instruct you to evacuate, or instructions will come out over the radio and TV,” they said.

People in coastal areas, such as tourist-filled Waikiki, will then be instructed on a possible evacuation. The sirens will also be sounded again three hours prior to the estimated arrival time.

Ms. Ichishita said people who are not in evacuation zones to stay away from coastal areas.

If coastal areas are evacuated, visitors in Waikiki would be moved to higher floors in their hotels, than moved out of the tourist district, which could cause gridlock.

“We’ve got a lot of things going for us,” Mr. McCreery said. “We have a reasonable lead time. The evacuation should all take place during daylight hours, and wave impact should be during daylight hours.

Despite the incoming waves, the state was quiet through the night with no signs of panic.

Barry Hirschon, also of the Tsunami center, said the advisory for the New york coast and parts of Alaska was the agency’s lowest level alert.

“We should be able to alert everyone in harm’s way to move out of the evacuation zones.”

The largest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile in 1960. The deadly wave that it caused raced across the Pacific and hit the Hilo area of the Gigantic Island, where 61 people were killed.

“It’s a heads up that there’s been a tsunami event and it could affect the coasts later,” Hirschon told CNN. “I don’t think it will be updated to a warning.”

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