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Southern California reacts to Japan earthquake, tsunamis

At LAX, flights to Japan were canceled. Singapore Airlines flights have been delayed until tomorrow.
Brian Watt/KPCC
At LAX, flights to Japan were canceled. Singapore Airlines flights have been delayed until tomorrow.

A series of small tsunami waves reached the California coastline Friday morning following the massive earthquake off the coast of Japan. The largest waves may arrive in the western United States at this hour. So far, tsunami waves have caused no major damages or injuries in the Southland.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. | Permalink

Tsunami surge causes little damage in S. Calif.

There are more reports of damage in Southern California due to waves caused by the tsunami generated by the massive Japan earthquake.

The National Weather Service said Friday that three boats in Catalina Harbor sank and a section of the pier was damaged due to surging waves. There was no one on board the boats and no injuries were reported.

In Santa Barbara Harbor, a mooring broke on a 50-foot bait barge and a dredge pipe broke loose. And in King's Harbor in Hermosa Beach, 10-15 knot surges moved a 26-foot boat and a 56-foot-boat onto a dock.

A tsunami advisory remains in effect for Southern California coastal areas.

- Associated Press

Updated at 3:30 p.m. | Permalink

Japan quake draws links, comments and prayers on Facebook

As has become the norm during world events lately, one of the ways in which people have been getting togehter to provide information, ask questions or simply comment on the killer earthquake that struck Japan yesterday afternoon is on Facebook. Read more...

Updated at 3:15 p.m. | Permalink

Calif., Ore. sustained most damage from tsunami

The warnings traveled quickly across the Pacific in the middle of the night: An 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan spawned a deadly tsunami, and it was racing east Friday as fast as a jetliner. Sirens blared in Hawaii. The West Coast pulled back from the shoreline, fearing the worst. People were warned to stay away from the beaches. Fishermen took their boats out to sea and safety. The alerts moved faster than the waves, giving millions of people across the Pacific Rim hours to prepare. Read more...

Updated at 3 p.m. | Permalink

LA-based search and rescue team to head to Japan

Officials say an elite Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue team has been activated and could be in Japan by Sunday.

Capt. Ed Lozano says 72 team members, six dogs and 74,000 tons of equipment and supplies are getting ready to head for the quake-devastated area.

Lozano says the task force includes firefighters, emergency room doctors, engineers and hazardous materials technicians. There are also members specially trained in underwater rescue.

Lozano says some of the rescue workers have just returned from New Zealand, where they were sent after last month's Christchurch quake. They too will be on the flight to Japan.

Lozano says logistics for the flight are still being worked out.

The team was requested by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

- Associated Press

Updated at 1:46 p.m. | Permalink

Tsunami sweeps 5 to sea, rips out California docks

A tsunami swept at least five people watching the waves out to sea Friday and ripped docks out of harbors in California, spreading the destruction of a devastating Japanese earthquake to the shores of the United States. Read more...

Updated at 1:21 p.m. | Permalink

Los Angeles-area nonprofits mobilize for Japan tsunami relief

Within hours after a tsunami and earthquake struck Japan’s northeastern coast, Southland nonprofits are coordinating relief efforts. Read more...

Los Angeles prepares for tsunami, Mayor Villaraigosa comments on quake

When the earthquake hit Japan last night, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was out of town; he's been in Washington meeting with lawmakers about transportation money.

But the mayor says he was notified of the quake almost immediately by his Deputy Director for Public Safety and Homeland Security and has been getting "periodic assessments" from his staff both by phone and email. Read more...

Updated at 12:25 p.m. | Permalink

Tsunami waves pack powerful punch along west coast

You might not be able to tell the difference if you look at the ocean along the Southern California coast right now, but seismologists explain that tsunami waves are very different from regular waves because the long, slow surges move water from the depths of the ocean. The potential for danger increases at high tide.

In Southern California, the tsunami waves have remained at 1 to 3 feet. Still, Kate Long of the California Emergency Management Agency says such waves can pack a powerful punch.

“A tsunami wave is very different from a 'Hawaii Five-O' wave," says Long. "I think people expect a tidal wave to be this one giant wave. Its not. It’s a series of surges with a great deal of power behind them and a great deal of currents. People describe it like being in a blender, so you see this churning water with a great deal of force coming in.”

The highest waves in the cycle so far reached Northern California along the Oregon border. Officials say 6-foot waves hit there and severely damaged the harbor and dock in Crescent City.

Some boats and the dock in Santa Cruz also sustained damage.

Cal Tech seismologists say the earthquake in Japan rivals the fourth largest since scientists have taken measurements. It ranks behind the quakes in Chile in 1960, Alaska in ’64 and the Sumatra quake in 2004.

-Shirley Jahad

Updated at 10:14 a.m. | Permalink

Debbie Kilb, a seismologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, spoke with KPCC's Madeleine Brand.

Japan's 8.9 earthquake is the fifth strongest earthquake recorded since 1900. The largest was a 9.5 earthquake in Chile in 1960.

Earthquakes that cause damage are those that are big and shallow – and this earthquake in Japan was big and shallow, along that plate tectonic boundary.

Over 85 aftershocks have been recorded of magnitude 5 and above. The largest aftershock so far was a magnitude 7.1 earthquake.

According to Kilb, the largest aftershock expected would be as high as a 7.9. There's been nothing that big yet, but it could still come.

This was a thrust-fault earthquake, which means the fault isn't up and down; it's angled. With that kind of fault next to a large body of water, you get tsunamis.

Japan and California are both part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. It makes this part of the world more susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis. Most earthquakes take place around this ring, which lies along the edges of the Pacific tectonic plate.

Japan is well prepared for earthquakes, but it's almost impossible to be prepared for a big earthquake like this. Kilb says it's also a wakeup call for those on the West Coast, particularly in California, to be prepared for earthquakes.

California is already well prepared. Kilb said there have been test cases for California's preparedness, such as the recent 7.2 earthquake in Baja, which caused hardly any damage. It's comparable to Haiti's magnitude 7 quake which caused huge amounts of damage. Kilb says that building codes in place in California are saving lives.

Kilb said that what goes in an earthquake kit is common sense, but wold most people forget is to think about where they spend their time every day. She suggested looking around your office for what could fall on you, and to also have an extra pair of sturdy shoes in your car in the event that you get stranded.

-Madeline Brand & Mike Roe

First waves hit in Port Orford, Oregon

Tsunami warnings were issued up and down the west coast. A tsunami advisory prompted beach closures at Malibu Beach and Newport Beach. In Ventura County, beaches remained open, but more officers were stationed there just in case.

The first waves hit in Port Orford, Oregon. City administrator Mike Murphy spoke with KPCC's Madeleine Brand.

"The tsunami has come, it is here, it is real," said Murphy. Luckily, the waves came in at low tide. The water surged back and forth in a noticeable fashion and would have been a hazard to anyone on the beach, but caused no damage.

Murphy said it was similar to the difference between low tide and high tide, but instead of taking six hours, it would happen over the course of a few minutes. The water would recede, exposing a large portion of the beach, then come back in, ranging between low tide and would would be a fairly high tide for the area.

Port Orford residents in low-lying areas were evacuated. Most followed instructions and evacuated, which Murphy attributed to good news coverage and education efforts in the area.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the largest waves were scheduled to peak just after 9, so Murphy wasn't anticipating any damage going forward.

Tsunamis have hit Port Orford in the past. Most of the time they're not noticeable, but in 1964 one hit and caused damage.

-Madeleine Brand & Mike Roe

Updated at 9:31 a.m. | Permalink

Surfer at Venice Beach comments on tsunami warning

Surfer Nick Lafferty paddled out into surf in Venice on Friday morning despite a tsunami warning. Ten minutes later the U.S. Coast Guard kicked him and other surfers in the lineup out of the water.

"I didnt think it'd be bigger than it normally is," said the 26-year-old Asian TV producer. "I think I was vindicated by the fact that there's been small waves all morning."

He said it was bigger on Tuesday and that it'd be bigger this weekend.

"I didn't really feel that there was any immediate danger," he said.

- Brian Watt & Jason Kandel

Updated at 8:39 a.m. | Permalink

People wait to see waves at Seal Beach

We've had cancelations on flights from Japan to Los Angeles and back today. The USS Dubuque was told to move out of Seal Beach due to potential tsunami waves.

The Seal Beach Police Department received a warning last night. All of the beaches along the Orange County coast were closed this morning.

About 100 people waited to watch and see what would happen, though the area faced a tsunami "advisory," not a tsunami "warning" like in Hawaii, which indicates a lower threat.

-Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, Steve Julian & Mike Roe

Updated at 8:29 a.m. | Permalink

People wait at Venice Beach for effects of Japan earthquake

Some of the tsunami waves have hit Oregon and California. There was a tsunami warning north of Point Conception and a tsunami advisory south of that, which indicates a lower level threat.

In Venice Beach at the pier, police arrived about 8:15. The door at the pier was already closed, but the police put up police tape to stop anyone from getting on the pier.

A crowd gathered to see what the waves hitting as a result of the Japan earthquake would look like. One person walking with his dog commented that it was low tide, so the waves would likely just be like high tide.

Some surfers were still surfing this morning in Santa Cruz. At Venice Beach, the last surfer got out of the water around 8:20.

Helicopters flew overhead, including both LAPD and lifeguard helicopters. Lifeguard pickup trucks patrolled beaches.

It was unclear how long the beaches would be shut down, but at least until 8:40, when the waves were expected to hit, authorities wanted to make sure people were back from the beach and not doing anything foolish.

Surfers stood at lifeguard shacks, staring at the ocean in anticipation of what was to come.

The breakwater wall in Marina del Rey seemed likely to protect most of the boats there, but that remained to be seen.

- Brian Watt, Steve Julian & Mike Roe


There’s a tsunami warning for the coast of Southern California north of Point Conception (north of Santa Barbara) and an advisory south of there because of the magnitude 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan.

The first waves may hit shore in Santa Monica, San Pedro and Newport Beach starting at about 8:30 a.m.

Dr. Ken Hudnut of the U.S. Geological Survey cautioned the first arriving waves may not be the biggest waves, which could hit about three hours afterward and last 10 to 12 hours.

More from KPCC wire services:

A tsunami warning was in effect today for the coast of Southern and Central California because of the magnitude 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan, which officials said was the largest in that country's recorded history.

The first waves may hit shore in San Pedro, Santa Monica and Newport Beach starting about 8:30 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

But Dr. Ken Hudnut of the U.S. Geological Survey cautioned that the first arriving waves may not be the biggest waves, which could hit about three hours afterward.

Hudnut also noted that concerns about a tsunami in Hawaii following last year's Chile earthquake did not materialize.

Currents may be hazardous to swimmers, boats and coastal structures and may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival.

"Current intelligence indicates a 3-foot surge may impact the coastline of Los Angeles County," Los Angeles County fire Capt. Sam Padilla said. "The impact of this event has the potential of lasting 10-12 hours, beginning at 8 a.m."

Padilla advised people in the tsunami advisory coastal areas to move out of the water and stay off the beach. And those in harbors and marinas should follow Coast Guard and harbor master recommendations. However, no evacuations along the coastline are expected, Padilla said.

Beaches and the pier were closed. Some schools were closed near the coast in Orange County, but no coastal flooding was expected, Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said.

Currents may be hazardous to swimmers, boats and coastal structures and may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival.

Officials urged people to stay clear of beaches as a precaution.