Many coastal B.C. residents were preparing to head for the hills Friday after a devastating magnitude 8.9 earthquake in Japan prompted a tsunami warning that ended up creating barely a ripple when the waves reached the West Coast.

But before the weak waves arrived, there were late night phone calls to loved ones, double checks of survival kits, and, for some, stirred-up memories of the big tsunami that hit the Vancouver Island city of Port Alberni more than 45 years ago.

Local beaches were shut down and emergency personnel guarded the entrance to Pacific Rim National Park near Tofino to prevent entry.

Schools were closed for the day along the vulnerable west coast of Vancouver Island and an emergency operations centre was set up after the advisory went out covering the north coast and the Haida Gwaii Islands, the Bella Bella and Shearwater areas and Vancouver Island from Cape Scott to Port Renfrew.

In Port Alberni, the 1964 Good Friday tsunami from Alaska tore the lumber community apart, but spared every life. On Friday, residents gathered at the shores of the funnel-shaped Alberni Inlet to quietly stare out to sea.

"I would say it's a total non-event," said Dave Hiltz, who said his sister called him early Friday from Hilo, Hawaii asking if he knew a tsunami was approaching and if he was prepared.

"She didn't know whether we'd been warned," he said.

Photographer Roger Moore said he'd been sitting outside sipping coffee for two hours early Friday and didn't see any waves approaching.

"I guess I'm just cooling my heels now," said Moore, who is in the Port Alberni area to photograph the upcoming herring fishery.

Geoff Johnson, a broadcaster at Long Beach Radio in Tofino, took to his airwaves just after midnight to ensure listeners were aware of the threat and had guidance on how to respond.

While people in town have been through similar tsunami scares before, the biggest worry after the Japanese quake was getting word out to fishermen and others in boats, Johnson said.

"There has been some concern about people out on the water not being aware."

By mid-morning, the tsunami waves had hit the west coast of Vancouver Island without making any discernible difference.

"I think it's passed, nothing's really happened. Out here you wouldn't really notice the one- or two-foot waves go by so things seem to be quite normal at this point," said Tofino Mayor John Fraser.

"It probably went by here and we didn't see it. We're not up an inlet or something where it has a chance to build up and have more of an impact."

Port Alberni's Roger Miller said his wife, Angie, woke him early Friday morning and told him they better be ready to run for high ground.

Miller said he understands his wife's apprehension about tsunami's because she saw the 1964 waves up-close.

He said she remembers running while her father stayed behind on the roof to guard the home from possible looting, which never occurred.

"Every time there's a tidal wave warning, or tsunami warning, she and her father take it really seriously," said Miller who told his coffee buddies how he rode out a South Seas typhoon while serving in the U.S. Navy.

Elderly Port Alberni residents Don and Donna Pointon casually admitted they slept through the 1964 tsunami and coincidentally, also slept through Friday's tsunami alert.

"I slept through it (in 1964,") said Don Pointon, 78. "I woke up in the morning and they said there had been tidal waves. I went down and there was quite a commotion, timbers floating around the yard. They had to bring in the army, I think."

Just hours after the devastating earthquake hit Japan, Canadians had already donated $77,000 to help victims.

The Canadian Red Cross is reaching out online and through social media to raise funds for victims. Those wishing to make donations can call 1-800-418-1111 or go to the Red Cross Canada website.

People can also text the word ASIA, in all capital letters, to 3-0-3-3-3.

The powerful quake is the worst in Japan's history.

The tsunami warning also caused waves on the Internet, with the Twitterverse aflutter with news that the stars of the latest Twilight film were evacuated from the Tofino area because of the warning.

Cast member Tinsel Korey tweeted a melodramatic adieu after filming on Breaking Dawn near Tofino was stalled by the incoming tsunami caused by the devastating earthquake.

The tsunami advisory -- one step below a warning -- was a stark reminder of British Columbia's place on the Ring of Fire along the Pacific Rim, and the risks that entails, Tofino's Fraser said after seeing the "pretty startling pictures" out of Japan.

"You kind of get complacent with these things and go 'yeah, yeah,' but make sure people have their emergency kits and escape routes if they need them," Fraser said.

Russel Dyson, director of the Alberni Valley emergency operation centre, said he was notified of the advisory at 12:30 last night and by mid-morning they had noticed only a minimal increase in the wave level. They had not yet activated the region's tsunami warning system.

"If it would go to a warning, then we would activate our tsunami warning system and then ask residents and people in lower lying areas to go to higher ground. We have not reached that point," Dyson said.

"We have a siren system and a voice-activated system that advises people to go to higher ground.

"It is not at a level that requires a warning."

Glen Plummer, communications manager for Emergency Management British Columbia, said while high waves may not materialize, they always have to be prepared for the possibility that something like this could happen.

The Provincial Emergency Co-ordination Centre advised local authorities to evacuate marinas, beaches and other areas below the normal high tide mark.

"That is where you should not be. You should stay at higher levels and stay away from the water," he said.

The advisory said the "low-level" tsunami headed for British Columbia could create "strong currents" in harbours.

"Local governments in these zones are advised to activate their emergency plans."

Johnson said people in Tofino are split between those who take tsunami warnings seriously, and those who don't worry as much.

He said when word of a possible tsunami was issued last February, while the rest of the world watched Vancouver as it hosted the 2010 Olympics, people in Tofino were crowding onto the beaches with their lawn chairs.

Scenes of devastation were emerging from Japan, where the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami early Friday caused massive destruction and hundreds of deaths.

A statement issued on behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered condolences to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami and said "Canada will stand by the people of Japan during this difficult moment."

The tsunami warning was issued for much of the Pacific Rim, including Hawaii, New Zealand, the entire U.S. western coast, Mexico and Central and South America.

Residents in coastal areas from Hawaii to Guam were ordered to evacuate to shelters and higher ground. In Hawaii's tourist district of Waikiki, visitors were being moved to higher floors of their hotels. Residents were waiting in long lines stocking up on gas, bottled water, canned food and generators.

In the Philippines, officials ordered an evacuation of coastal communities along the country's eastern seaboard.

Australia was not in danger because it was protected by island nations to the north, including Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, that would largely absorb any wave activity, said Chris Ryan, a forecaster at the National Meteorological and Oceanographic Centre, the Australian government agency that monitors the threat.

---- With files from The Associated Press