Tsunami Report from California

7 Conversations

A huge, terrifying wave.

At 1446 local time (0546 GMT, 2146 PST) an earthquake of a magnitude of 8.9 hit 250 miles north-east of Tokyo, Japan. This article consists of the impressions of one Researcher in Crescent City, California, a place aware of the effects of tsunamis, since it was devastated in 19641.

Personal Tsunami Timeline2

March 10, 2011, 11:30pm PST

Go to bed after watching a movie with my husband, Tom, secure in the knowledge that Japan is on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Plus, our home is outside the tsunami danger zone.

March 11, 2011, 2:45am

High tide for Crescent City, California.


Evacuation begins, with emergency personnel going door-to-door.





Tom, grumbling, goes downstairs and answers the door. The neighbor informs him that there's a tsunami warning in effect. Tom comes upstairs and tells me. I remind him that we are on the safe side of 9th Street.


Tom awakens our older daughter, and tells her to get dressed. I stumble downstairs and google for information. Father-in-law comes over to check on us, seconds after mother-in-law calls. I take the computer upstairs, as my nightwear isn't guest-appropriate and I hadn't grabbed my robe. Oops. As I scuttle up the stairs, I promise to email information to mother-in-law as I find it, because I'm more web-savvy. I find and email the first useful thing I find, as well as the map (linked above) showing who needs to evacuate.


We realize that, although we are safe and need not go anywhere, both the thrift store and and new bookstore are firmly within the tsunami zone. Tom and his dad go to get the important files, the safe, and the truck from the stores. I get on FaceBook and h2g2 to let people know that we are fine, and will continue to be.


I realize I should be listening to the local radio stationsmiley - blush


I start writing this.

Before 7:15am, on the radio

All schools3 are closed.

Business and services closures announced, as well as information on what is open.

Changes in evacuation meeting sites announced (Klamath changed three times).

Information for evacuating animals4 given—this basically consists of who to call.

Listeners informed that if school buses are seen, they are for evacuation, not to take children to school.

Courthouse5 will be closed. However, those with court business need to call in at 1pm to see if it will be open this afternoon.


Paperkid is informed that when "That sound6" is on the radio, that means she needs to stop talking.


Time first surge is due passes.


Notepad wakes up.


Reports of people walking back into The Zone. Urgings to stay out until the all-clear is given (activity forecast to last until at least noon). Urgings repeated throughout the morning.


Tom returns to bed, leaving me up to listen to the radio. I'll get to take a nap later.


First sign of unusual activity reported by official spotters—"Bubbling" at the boat basin.


Harbor is draining quickly—first indication of first wave.


First surge at the harbor was 3 feet. Damage was caused. Reminders that the first surge/wave is often not the highest.


Ground-based observers report into radio—surges are at 5 feet.


Lighthouse Repertory Theater cancels tonight's performance. Tickets may be used next week.

Highway 101 closed at Washington Blvd.

I finally get around to eating.


Harbor's pretty much screwed—several surges, up to 5 feet over sea level. The boats in the harbor (some left for deep water hours ago) are banging together, and docks are askew. Surges seem to be isolated to the harbor at present.


Observer on bluffs reports another surge on the way.


35 boats crushed. Docks gone. Last surge filled the harbor, next will likely overflow into the parking lot. Other areas are getting wet, now, as well.


Helicopter observer confirms above report. 9:40 is supposed to be the biggest surge.

People have been seen on the beaches trying to outrun the surges *headdesk*

Surges described as like the tide going in and out in 5-10 minute intervals, but more so7. Continuing the warnings to stay out of The Zone. The sirens going off are not an all-clear signal—they are warnings to stay (or go, if you haven't yet) away from the evacuation zone.


Surges should peak between now and 10:10, though that's just an estimate.


I allow PaperKid to watch a video, as long as I can hear the radio. She has elected to design some more Miis, since sound is not needed for that.

Boats in deep water have reported a large surge is on the way.


Surge has overflowed Elk Creek.


Outlying areas of town have lost power.

Spotters can see visible surges on the way.


Nine hours of further surges expected, bigger than what has hit already.

Tom gets up and offers to let me nap now. I send him back to bed to keep this updated. I do take advantage of his being up to get dressed, though.


Two people washed out near Pistol River—they've been rescued and are safe. Person taken out by wave at the Klamath River—no further details.


Library8 has cancelled tonight's book signing. Casino has confirmed concert is going ahead.

Power company has de-energized low-lying areas WHICH SHOULD BE EMPTY NOW ANYWAY.

Peak surge so far—8.1 feet at 9:50.


Rumors of looting debunked—there are police officers and sheriff deputies, as well as firefighters patrolling downtown.


Courthouse officially closed all day.


OK, I misunderstood—there are docks in the harbor, but they aren't connected to anything. So while it's not true to say that there are no docks at all, for practical purposes, there's nothing there.


Commercial boat dock in Brookings Harbor is completely gone. Four people have been rescued from beaches and estuary areas in Curry county.


Update from Curry County Sheriff—One confirmed fatality on a boat in Brookings Harbor. Cause of death unknown—cannot get to boat as it is moored to a loose mooring.

Update from Del Norte County DA—Six boats sunk in Crescent City harbor. Boats without power. Feared more boats will be sunk with another surge. A dock has one boat left, B dock has four-five boats. At least three boats adrift. Probably more than previous report of 35 boats crushed. Water within 2 feet of the parking lot with surges—big one hasn't come yet.


Rumor that Highway 101 north to Brookings is closed debunked. Highway 101 south to Klamath is closed, however.


Water makes it over breakwater. New peak.

It's kind of surreal, the weather—it's gorgeous and comparatively warm. Lovely day to go to the beach9...


So far, no buildings damaged.

Appeal made to bilingual speakers of Spanish and Hmong to relay news to Spanish-only and Hmong-only speakers.


Post Office officially announces that there is no mail delivery in the 955xx zip code10 today.

I finally decide to get some sleep. The updates between now and 4:30pm or 5pm will be reconstructions, and may or may not have times attached.

Time unknown

Girl Scout cookies delivered to radio station "To go with all the coffee" by a classmate of PaperKid.


Another large surge expected.


Tsunami warning downgraded to a tsunami advisory, except for the Crescent City and Klamath area.


Blue Star Gas shuts off all underground utilities.


I wake up from my nap.

ABC News announces that a man has been washed out from Klamath. Local news has not confirmed—this follows the pattern of the day of rumors getting reported by major networks that are later debunked by the folks on the ground here.


8.1 foot surge again. High tide is coming at 4:45.

PaperKid falls asleep on couch.


High tide.


Story about man from Klamath not confirmed.

Congressmen and representatives on their way—should arrive around 9pm.

Assessment of surge ongoing—should get an update around 5:30pm.


Confirmation that there was a man washed out from Klamath. 25-year-old male, has only been in the area for a few weeks. Not found as yet. He and two others were taking photos of the tsunami. All three got washed out, two returned on their own.


Fatality in Brookings Harbor confirmed to be of natural causes, unrelated to the tsunami.


Evacuation will be lifted in half an hour, with restrictions. Harbor will not be open, nor will two motels and one RV park, all of which are right on the beach.

Highway 101 will also be opened at 6pm.


Harbormaster asks that people stay away from the harbor at least until the middle of next week, to allow for assessment and work. Preliminary assessment is that the inner boat basin is completely destroyed. Damage caused by the 2006 tsunami, much less than today's damage, was estimated at $20 million, so obviously this will be more.


Highway 101 is now opened to north- and southbound traffic.

Evacuation is over, except for the restrictions noted above. Evacuation center at the high school is still open overnight, for the folks affected by the restrictions.


Received a phone call from a business within The Zone—Tom had reserved a video, and it evidently is now in. Things are returning to normal for most of the town.


Blue Star Gas will be going around to people's homes to restore utilities.

I turn off the radio

The wrap up

I want to acknowledge the fact that much of this article would not exist without the work of the people at Bicoastal Media. Chuck and Rene11 and several others were called in at 1am and provided continuous coverage past when I turned the radio off at 6:15pm. KPOD/KCRE signed off of FaceBook at around 7:30pm.

Photos and videos

Photos of today's events, copied from FaceBook and placed in an album with permission.

Time-lapse video of the harbor. Turn your sound off, or prepared to be annoyed!

Videos12 from the local radio team, unfortunately on FaceBook, so those not on FaceBook may not be able to watch.

More videos can be seen onYouTube.

General Features Archive

Amy Pawloski

14.03.11 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1I am aware that nothing that happened here today is anything like the devastation in Japan. I in no way mean to overshadow or downplay the suffering there. This is merely what happened here, the scale of which is a bit easier to grasp.2Where possible, typed as news comes in. Items may or may not be expanded upon as time allows.3I work at a school, and PaperKid is school-aged.4This is a rural area, so this includes farm animals as well as pets.5In the evacuation zone, henceforth referred to as The Zone.6The Emergency Broadcast System alarm—constant live coverage on the radio station, in between alerts from the National Weather service, via the Emergency Broadcast System.7Later described as "A rip tide on steroids."8In The Zone.9NOT SERIOUS.10I'm not being secretive about my own zip code. All areas whose zip codes start with 955 are getting no mail today.11Who was on vacation!12That link is to all the videos by KCRE. The individual videos are here: Part 1. Part 2.

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