Tsunami Rolls Into California ~ All the Way from Japan

March 11th, 2011

Waking up on Friday morning was a strange experience. I’d been up til 2:30 glued to MSNBC watching the shocking live coverage of the earthquake and inundation in Northeast Japan. And a tsunami was moving East towards Hawaii and California. First I opened up Google Earth and confirmed my house’s altitude (about 80′ above sea level).

Watched as they issued evacuation orders for all of the Hawaiian Islands. Set the alarm for 5 AM to check on Hawaii. Woke up at 7:30. This month, I’m working at sea level. Drat. It was disconcerting to turn on the TV and hear it’s blaring warning tone with a red stripe along the bottom of the screen – a tsunami warning for the entire San Francisco Bay coastline. And when my phone rang with a recorded warning from my county, I took a deep breath.

They anticipated the wave to be 1-3′ high, and it would be hitting a low tide, which would make the net height even less than a normal high tide. I got in the car and headed over to Marin. Stuck in traffic on the bridge, I thought, hmmm, maybe not the best place to be when the tsunami hits.

Crossing the Pacific in only about 11 hours, the waves that piled into San Francisco Bay paled in comparison to the mega tsunami that hit Japan’s East Coast. From the second floor of KKMI’s Sausalito boatyard, Ken Keefe and I watched as the tsunami rolled down Richardson Bay. It was frightening in that one couldn’t know just how high the water would rise.

Thanks to Audubon California for posting this video of the tsunami entering Richardson Bay. I was on the second floor of one of the buildings directly across the harbor.

An absolutely amazing view of the second set of waves taken from Golden Gate Fields – a racetrack straight inshore from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Video featuring the Derek M. Baylis (sailboat to the left) & showing the unpredictable currents caused by the incoming waves.

Captain Richard Gillette of the sailing vessel Pegasus describes the action in the Berkeley Marina during the event. Richard’s videos follow:

“That Tsunami traveled all the way across the Pacific and arrived in San Francisco around 8:08 am this morning. The first surge was not so bad, but the later ones were quite powerful. There were in excess of 25 knot currents inside the Berkeley Marina. Several docks were broken and several pilings snapped in half and others just leaned over. The end tie dock at D dock broke in half. A piling on O dock snapped and fell on a boat causing slight damage. Several fingers on O dock were also damaged as well as docks at Berkeley Marine Center. When I heard that we were getting damage, I got in my dinghy and went to help. I knew that the Marina was down to one rescue boat and could use the help. I was right. We used my dinghy to help move broken docks, move boats and secure floating items. At one point the current was so strong we could barely make way.”

The worst hit areas were Santa Cruz Harbor to our South and Crescent City Harbor up North. These harbors are directly on the Pacific Ocean, rendering them far more at the whim of what Mother Ocean doles out.

Boats sunk, damaged in Santa Cruz. ‘Scary, a wake up call’, says one resident.

And finally from Crescent City near the Oregon Border, where the damage was even worse.

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