Nightly News   |  February 27, 2010

Hawaiians heed tsunami warnings

Spurred by official alerts and local television reports, tourists and residents clogged roads as they scrambled for higher ground. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> britain coast are several areas where tsunami warnings were not issued today. resident s in hawaii were told to brace for waves that could cause significant damage and flooding. it's something they've been preparing for for years. here's nbc's chief environmental correspondent ann thompson.

>> reporter: this was the sound heard across hawaii . no longer part of a weekly drill, today this tsunami warning was the real thing. islanders didn't wait for daylight to start preparing. gas stations had long lines before dawn .

>> i want to go fishing, but i guess that's not going to happen today.

>> reporter: this woman lives near the beach.

>> yeah, i'm thinking my things are going to get totally soaked and i don't really want to be there.

>> reporter: the urgency rose with the sun.

>> attention, attention, tsunami warning is in effect.

>> reporter: reen forced constantly on local tv .

>> we do know that at least a six-foot wave is on the way. maybe up to nine feet.

>> reporter: residents clogged roads headed for higher ground.

>> two lanes completely sitting there as if it's a parking lot.

>> we operate two hotels on the northwestern coast of the big island . we relocated two entire hotels and staff. so it's probably over 1,000 people with our staff up here.

>> reporter: even the u.s. navy took no chances, sending six vessels into open waters from pearl harbor . even in wallae, lance is above the tsunami line, safe but a little unnerved.

>> if you didn't know what was going on, couldn't hear the sirens, you would think it was another perfect day here in paradise.

>> reporter: the tsunami finally reached hawaii just before noon there, the waves were is not nearly as high as expected and no major damage was immediately reported. in the words of an official at the pacific tsunami warning center , we dodged a bullet. in this case, preparing for the worst turned out for the best. lester?

>> ann thompson tonight, thank you.

>>> a short while ago i