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Tsunami waves not visible to the eye on coast

Tidal gauges detected a tsunami wave along the Washington and Oregon coasts Friday morning. But the swell, up to 1.5 feet, went unnoticed by coastal residents who chose not to evacuate.

Authorities in Washington's Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties broadcast warnings and went door to door before dawn to urge residents and tourists to move to higher ground. But the evacuation request was voluntary.

In the Copalis Beach area, carpenters showed up their usual early hour to start work. Bill Harp kept an eye on the ocean from the second floor balcony of a resort under renovation:

"On my way out here, everybody was evacuating town and we're all coming out here to work."

Asked if he thought about turning around, Harp responded, "No, I wanted to check it out."

After not seeing the tsunami, Harp also said:

"I don't want it to wipe anyone out like it did Japan, but we wanted to see a wave come in here."

From this vantage point, the passing tsunami waves were undetectable amidst the normal frothing winter storm surf. People who did evacuate had no regrets. They said they would rather be safe than sorry.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.