Disastrous Japan quake prompts local tsunami warning

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A tsunami advisory was in effect in the San Diego area Friday in the aftermath of a devastating magnitude-8.9 earthquake in Japan, but as of late morning, no major problems had been reported locally.

Waves emanating to the southeast from the epicenter of the temblor — reportedly the fifth most powerful recorded since 1900 — arrived in San Diego County shortly after 8:30 a.m., causing “significant tide fluctuations” in several areas, according to the National Weather Service.

The swells, which resulted in no known injuries or property damage, caused the ocean to briefly rise 2.8 feet in La Jolla, 1.2 feet at San Diego Navy Pier and 2.6 feet in northern Imperial Beach, the Weather Service reported.

Local quake-spawned ocean surges could last for 10-12 hours, producing strong currents potentially dangerous for surfers, swimmers, boaters and coastal structures. Irregular stretches of coastline could increase wave heights in some areas, according to the Weather Service.

At Quivira Basin in Mission Bay, the water level fell by roughly three feet about 9 a.m., said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire- Rescue Department. The harbor was returning to its prior level a half-hour or so later.

“It's not disruptive,” he said. “It's a very gentle flow of water. It's not knocking boats around on the docks or anything like that.”

Other local beaches reported no effects at all from the tsunami activity.

“There's no reason to be alarmed — just be aware,” Luque advised. “We don't expect any inundation of water.”

Local surges from the tsunami were likely to be much less of a problem than what was seen during the rainstorms of the past couple of months, he added.

About a dozen extra lifeguards were called in, just in case, and 30 police officers were patrolling the San Diego coastline, officials said.

The U.S. Coast Guard prepared for any tsunami-related emergencies by readying an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, the cutter Haddock and three response boats from USCG Station San Diego. Additionally, a crew from the federal maritime agency's local Incident Management Division was on duty to respond to any pollution that could result from vessel groundings.

The Coast Guard advised boaters to keep their vessels moored until the tsunami advisory is lifted and asked them to monitor VHF Channel 16 for any updates or additional alerts.

A man visiting a local beach prior to the arrival of the weak tsunami surges told KUSI he was not concerned.

“Not at all — people are out, and there's been no warnings or anything, so I think it will be pretty mild,” the man, who identified himself only as Richard, told the news station. He added, however, that he would leave if hazard signs were posted.

Earlier in the morning, the tsunami struck Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, with no major property damage reported.

The quake, believed to be the largest in Japanese history, struck the northeast reaches of the country at 9:45 p.m. San Diego time, destroying buildings 240 miles away in Tokyo and triggering a 30-foot tsunami that killed hundreds of people. Thousands more were missing.

Categories: KUSI