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Official: Storm caused small tsunami off Montauk

A very small tsunami occurred off the coast of Montauk in the wake of Tuesday’s unsettled weather, but residents don’t need to sound the alarm, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center.

The small tsunami, officially known as a meteotsunami, was too small to be noticed by the naked eye, said David Hale, an oceanographer with the Alaska-based Center. Small tsunamis are a fairly regular occurrence along the East Coast, he said.

The tsunami waters were still churning off Montauk at about noon Wednesday.

“It’s still ongoing but it’s small. If you were standing on the beach you would never see this,” Hale said midday Wednesday. “The only reason we can see this is because we have a digital filter.”

Tsunamis are most commonly caused by earthquakes or landslides caused by earthquakes, according to the center. Meteotsunamis, however, are caused by a fast-moving weather system with strong winds, such as the severe thunderstorms and stormy weather seen on Tuesday. The change in air pressure displaces ocean waters and causes tide heights to rise, experts say.

Montauk’s small tsunami started at about 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, causing waters to rise about 2 1⁄2 inches above the normal tide. Meteotsunamis have been observed to reach heights of 6 feet or more, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Hale didn’t expect the tsunami off Montauk to last past Wednesday.

“Tsunamis will go on and on for many hours up to a day, but because of the magnitude of this one I think it [will]’ only be about up to 12 hours.”

There was also a small tsunami across Long Island Sound in Connecticut, the center said. It was measured off New Haven at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, with water levels reaching about a half-foot above the normal tide height.

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