How the quake may be felt locally

How the quake may be felt locally

7:38 PM EST, March 11, 2011

The earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific are likely to have some local effects. Here are some to think about:

Q: Will this restrict travel into Japan or Hawaii?

A: Yes. The State Department issued a travel alert on Friday recommending that Americans avoid travel to Japan until at least April 1.

In the advisory, the State Department said it “strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time.”

Tokyo airports are closed and other airports in the country may be closed or have restricted access. Public transportation, including trains and subways are closed in the Tokyo area and service has been interrupted in other areas. Many roads have been damaged near Tokyo and in northern Japan, the government said.

In Hawaii, Honolulu International Airport remained open, but seven or eight jets bound for Hawaii have turned around, including some originating from Japan, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Q: I have friends living in Japan. How can I check on them?

A: The U.S. State Department said Americans in Japan should contact family and friends in the United States to confirm their well-being at the earliest opportunity. In areas where Internet and telephone services are not available, it may be possible to contact people using text messages or other forms of social media like Twitter and Facebook, the government said. Americans can contact the State Department at JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov or call 888-407-4747. Callers outside the U.S. or Canada can call 202-201-4444. For concerns about an American in the tsunami zone outside of Japan, e-mail PacificTsunamiUSC@state.gov.

Q: Will this drive gas prices higher?

A: Georjeane Blumling, AAA Tidewater’s vice president of public relations, said there will likely be an economic impact from the earthquake in Japan, but it is too early to tell how it may, or may not, affect gas prices here.

“We’re now in a global economy where all markets are tied together,” she said. “There will be an impact based on the fact that there was a natural disaster. How it will affect oil, I can’t say at this time.”

Q: How will the port be affected?

A: It’s still too soon to tell, said Joseph A. Dorto, the top official at Virginia International Terminals Inc., the Virginia Port Authority’s operating arm.

From initial reports, it appears the tsunami’s worst effects were north of the major shipping ports in Japan, Dorto said. Some container vessels at sea could have been affected, which could alter schedules at the port authority’s container terminals.

Still, Dorto said, it appears unlikely that the tsunami will have a significant impact on the port.

Q: What about small businesses?

A: Small businesses that focus on Japanese food and products are likely to feel some effect, but the extent won’t be known for some time.

Bunna Sor, owner of Asia Grocery in Newport News, gets Japanese products from distributors in California and New York. The shop carries specialty items from Japan, like sushi and seaweed. He expects prices to go up, but “right now, we don’t know how much it will be,” he said.

Q: Will any Virginians be helping in the relief effort?

A: Fairfax County’s elite Urban Search and Rescue team is going to Japan to help with earthquake relief efforts.

Spokesman Dan Schmidt says the group is preparing to send a 72-member team, in conjunction with efforts coordinated by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Exact details on when the team will deploy have not yet been determined.

The department is frequently called on to assist following international disasters. Last year, Fairfax team members conducted 16 successful rescues in Haiti following the earthquake there.

Q: How can I send help?

A: The American Red Cross is accepting donations online. Go to redcross.org and click on “Donate Now.” Donations through the Salvation Army can be made by credit card at https://secure2.salvationarmy.org/ and designating its use, or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011, Newport News, Va., Daily Press

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