published Friday, March 11th, 2011

Tsunami arrives in California, knocks boats loose

  • photo
    With a tsunami warning in effect for Northern California, a man and woman walk along a pier at Fort Point near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Friday, March 11, 2011. The warnings came after a 8.9-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami struck Japan. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

JEFF BARNARD,Associated Press

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. (AP) — A tsunami triggered by the massive earthquake in Japan reached California's coast Friday morning, causing surges that shook some boats loose from docks as beach-area residents throughout the state evacuated to higher ground.

The tide began rising shortly after 7:30 a.m. along beaches in Crescent City, near the Oregon border, where the tsunami was expected to hit the hardest in California. Officials predicted that waves could reach as high as 7 feet there.

Local officials activated tsunami warning sirens in Del Norte and Humboldt counties at dawn, and sheriff's deputies went door to door in Crescent City at dawn to urge residents in low-lying areas to seek higher ground.

By mid-morning, waves were crashing against the 30-foot bluffs, as residents gathered on the overlooks to witness the spectacle. At the harbor, officials scrambled to secure fishing boats as surging water knocked some loose from their docks.

The California Highway Patrol estimated about 35 boats have been damaged.

The same was happening on California's central coast in Santa Cruz, where loose fishing boats crashed into one another and chunks of wooden docks broke off. The water rushed out as quickly as it poured in, leaving the boats tipped over in mud.

"I'm worried about the damage, not just to the boat but to the whole harbor infrastructure," said Dave Emberson, an engineer and local harbor official in Santa Cruz.

That didn't stop surfers from ignoring evacuation warnings and taking advantage of the waves ahead of the tsunami.

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