Far From Japan, Tsunami Hits California Coast [VIDEO]

The earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale that has left upwards of 1700 dead in Japan (according to CNN) set a powerful tsunami in motion whose effects are being felt 5000 miles across the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii and California. Both states issued tsunami warnings on Friday and, while the damage wrought is far less than that in Japan, at least one person has died in California and millions of dollars of harbors, boats and much else has been destroyed.

SFGate reports that one of three men who had gone to take photos near the mouth of the Klamath River in Del Norte County swept into the ocean. The two other men tried to rescue their friend but were not able to. The man’s name was not immediately released; his friends were able to make it back to shore.

Del Norte County is some 350 miles north of San Francisco. Wendy Malone, spokeswoman for the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office, said that no structural damage occurred to buildings or houses, but the docks are considered a total loss. In 1964, 11 died when a tsunami hit Crescent City.

The most severe damage occurred in Santa Cruz and to the north in Crescent City:

Bruce Bruno, 73, of La Selva Beach came to the Santa Cruz harbor Friday morning to check on his salmon fishing boat, Pezdela, and wound up watching the destructive tableau unfold. As he looked on helplessly, a yacht slammed into his Pezdela, smashing the engines. 

“It was surreal,” Bruno said. “At first, the waves looked like nothing, and then all of a sudden they started hitting the pier on the north side and the boats lifted up – and then the piers started ripping apart. 

“From there, the ocean just tore everything up. It was very dramatic.”

20 boats were destroyed and more than 100 damaged in Santa Cruz.

Here’s a video of boats in the marina in Santa Cruz being thrown about like toy boats by the waves.

Elsewhere in California, thousands were evacuated to higher ground in Watsonville, Humboldt County, the San Mateo County coast and other areas. In San Francisco, the Great Highway was closed for most of the day and reopened in the late afternoon, with no significant damage reported. Ocean Beach, Baker Beach, China Beach, parts of the Presidio and Crissy Field as well as Fort Funston were all closed. Schools closed in Pacifica, where the beach was also closed.

According to the New York Times, earthquakes like the one that occurred in Japan usually generate two tsunamis, one occurring minutes afterwards at the nearest coastline and another that can occur thousands of miles in the opposite direction:

The wave that hits the nearby coastline first is usually the most destructive, said Eric Geist, a scientist with the United States Geological Survey. But with the tsunamis that head out to sea, some of the energy dissipates as the wave spreads outward across open ocean, like a ripple from a rock thrown into a pond. Coastal features can then either reduce or amplify some of the energy as the wave reaches land.

“Once the first wave hits the coastline, it gets very complicated,” Dr. Geist said.

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the worst of the waves passed along California’s coastline by late afternoon on Friday, but people were still warned not to go to the shore at least until Saturday morning. The waves crashed onto the shore in Emeryville across the bay from San Franciscoas you can see in this video. It’s a place I’ve often walked at—but not with all that water.


For Five Ways You Can Help Japan, please go here.


Previous Care2 Coverage

Explosion Reported at Japanese Nuclear Facility

Five Ways You Can Help Japan

Tsunami Wave Hits Hawaii, Expected to Reach U.S. Coast in Next Few Hours

Japan Nuclear Facility Put on State of Emergency as “Precaution”

BREAKING: Massive 8+ Magnitude Earthquake Hits Japan

Photo by epugachev.


Monique D.
Mon D8 years ago


Fareena Narine
Fareena Narine8 years ago

We cannot stop the course of mother nature

Gloria H.
Gloria H8 years ago

We can put a man on the moon, but we are still subject to Mother Nature. We can harness the rivers- to a degree, but man made levees break, we can pollute the ocean, kill off the coral, but we can't control the waves.

julieanne bowes
julieanne bowes8 years ago

Amazing and terrifying to watch...makes me feel insignificant and vulnerable. Imagine looking at that coming for you first hand... it would be the worst thing possible. God help them.

Carol Joan P.

Considering the terrific damage in Japan and horrendous damage inflicted by other tsunamis, California was 'lucky'.

Mike and Janis B.
Janis B8 years ago

We bet the people with boats in Santa Cruz should check their boats for damage. We wonder how many will contribute some of their obvious wealth to help the dire situation in Japan. The wave in San Fran was about as powerful as the Moncton bore so really very trivial.

Terry V.
Terry V8 years ago

What does this tell the world? Perhaps we should be treating it and each other better. Maybe someday we (humans) will get it and make a difference. Life is more precious than money.
You are all in my prayers.

Sharon Schaffhauser

Mother Nature is cleaning up and expanding in her own powerful way....Blessings to the survivors, our prayers are with you.

Warwick Neal
Warwick Neal8 years ago

It really emphasises the incredible power of this earthquake. CNN even issued a tsunami warning for Qld, Australia (near to me) !.

Warwick Neal
Warwick Neal8 years ago

It really emphasises the incredible power of this earthquake. CNN even issued a tsunami warning for Qld, Australia (near to me) !.