Why you shouldn't go scavenging between tsunami waves

A tsunami is a series of waves. If you drop a pebble in a pond, you'll notice there are several concentric ripples--not just one--that radiate outwards. Likewise, a tsunami comprises several waves.

In 1946 and 1960, after the first wave hit, curious residents went down to see the unusual behavior of the water, to view the damage, or to explore the newly exposed seafloor. This mistake cost many people their lives, as the second and third waves came in faster than the people could run.

Never go down to investigate tsunami damage. You don't know how many waves might still be coming. Wait until Civil Defense gives the all-clear signal.

This photo shows the 1946 tsunami, a wall of whitewater, crashing through Hilo bayfront palm trees. In the foreground, people are running over sand and debris deposited by the first wave. They had gone down to investigate the damage and were caught.

Visit our tsunami video gallery.