Coastal Tsunami Fears Lifted

A massive earthquake off Chile sent waves across the Pacific

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NOAA
    This image from the Tsunami Warning Center shows the preliminary forecast model energy map.

    The arrival of tsunami surges came and went without any reports of damage in San Diego.

    "It wasn't dangerous, but the water went out lower than an especially low tide and came back in," said San Diego lifeguard Lt. John Everhart. "That was definitely a tsunami event."

    Everhart said the tidal surge was seen around the La Jolla reef and the Birdrock area.

    California and coastal cities were told to prepare for strong currents after a massive earthquake off Chile triggered a tsunami that raced across the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, threatening Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast as well as hundreds of islands from the bottom of the planet to the top.

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    Waves larger than two feet were expected to brush up California's coast starting at the Mexican border at noon.

    “It’s different from an everyday wave," said geologist Pat Abott. " Even it it’s not high, it could come pushing in for many minutes. Even if it’s only 6 or 12 inches high, that’s a lot of energy.”

    An image from the Tsunami Warning Center (pictured above) showed the preliminary forecast model energy map.

    Using loud speakers, police were warning residents along the coast in San Diego about the event Saturday morning.

    “A tsunami advisory has been issued in anticipation of a surge in the ocean level along the coast, officials said. “Lifeguards are advising people to stay off the sand and coastal rock areas.”

    The National Weather Service issued the Tsunami Advisory and recommended people stay off beaches and out of harbors and marinas. Officials said no serious flooding was expected, but residents were advised to stay out of the water as a tsunami could produce strong currents and a series of potentially dangerous waves.

    “People are discouraged from going to the beach or harbors to view the event,” San Diego lifeguard Lt. Andy Lerum said. “People are encouraged to stay out of the water and away from the immediate coastline until after the event.”

    The Navy ordered ships out of port as the entire Pacific took safety precautions. While much of the movement is taking place around Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, at least one San Diego based ship has departed.

    "U.S. Third Fleet took appropriate precautionary measures and advised able San Diego ships to get underway and to take station in the Southern California operating area," said Commander Greg Hicks.

    USS Lake Champlain is expected to join USS Pearl Harbor, USS Dubuque, USS Peliliu and USS Rainer.  Those ships were already operating off the southern California coast as part of their regular training rotation.

    Commander Hicks said the Navy is closely monitoring the situation and units are on standby for further orders.
    Scientists say the major earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile was a "megathrust" -- similar to the 2004 Indian Ocean temblor that spawned a catastrophic tsunami.

    Megathrust earthquakes occur in subduction zones where plates of the Earth's crust grind and dive. Saturday's jolt occurred when the Nazca plate dove beneath the South American plate, releasing tremendous energy.

    The U.S. Geological Survey says 13 temblors of magnitude-7 or larger have hit coastal Chile since 1973.

    The latest quake occurred about 140 miles north of the largest earthquake ever recorded. The magnitude-9.5 struck southern Chile in 1960, killing some 1,600 people and generating a tsunami that killed another 200 people in Japan, Hawaii and the Philippines.