Tsunami Hits Bay Area Coast

The warnings of a tsunami proved true up and down the California coast

The National Weather Service issued tsunami warnings Friday morning for the West Coast following the magnitude 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan. And those warnings proved to be the real thing for the people who have boats in the Santa Cruz Harbor.

The warnings turned to advisories Bay Area-wide for the entire region by the early evening hours, but the damage was done with estimates in the millions of dollars.

A tsunami-related surge severely damaged at several docks and dozens of boats at the Santa Cruz Harbor. The harbor is just south of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and is marked by the Santa Cruz Breakwater lighthouse. The damage estimate to the harbor alone, according to city officials, was $2 million.

Dozens of people stood on the bridge and the railroad track that cross Pillar Point Harbor to watch the damage throughout the day. A worker at the Cliff House referred to the tsunami as a "spectator sport."

The water started to pour into the harbor around 7:45 a.m. and put all moorings to the test. The first surge knocked one boat and two dock-like objects free. Later surges knocked dozens of boats free as they began to slam into each other. Some capsized under the water's pressure.

Complete Tsunami Coverage Here

Authorities issued a local emergency and warned residents to stay away from the coast because larger waves were likely to hit the coast later in the day.

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The tsunami's surge went both ways. The water came in and then went back out with just as much force. It was a circular cycle that took about a minute to change directions and resembled time-lapse photography, with high-tide turning into low-tide within a matter of seconds.

Definitions: Tsunami Advisory, Watch, Warning | Other Tsunami Terms | Webcams: Santa Cruz/Monterey Beaches | USGS: West Coast Advisories

KCBS anchor Stan Bunger compared the force of the water in the harbor to the force of the water that runs near the Grand Canyon. He said the water in Santa Cruz was actually moving faster then the Grand Canyon on Thursday morning.

NBC Bay Area meteorologist Christina Loren predicted the damage would continue throughout the day Friday as more tsunami's continue to pour into the California coast. That proved true. Even as late as 4 p.m. tsunami surges poured into the harbor.

Near the Oregon border the Crescent City harbor also reported major damage. It is smaller than Santa Cruz but emergency officials there say that numerous vessels have been damaged by tidal flows in and out of the harbor. A tsunami caused major damage in Crescent City in 2006, but Friday's surges were much worse. One local described the harbor as a total loss.

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