Most of the Bay Area was not directly affected Friday (March 11) by a deadly tsunami that hit Japan Thursday night, despite concerns that residual waves crashing onto the California coastline could cause damage or injuries.
A tsunami warning was issued early Friday morning in the region after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan led to a tsunami that killed hundreds of people. Local damage seems to have been restricted mainly to the Santa Cruz Harbor, but precautions were taken across the Bay Area -- including evacuation plans, transit cancellations and school closures -- due to wave swells expected just before 8 a.m.
The harbor has sustained an estimated $2 million in damage so far, and the director of emergency services has issued a local emergency, county spokesman Enrique Sahagun said. Two docks and three vessels sustained major damage, and several others experienced minor damage, he said.
About 10 boats had been pulled loose from their moors and were crashing into one another at about 9:20 a.m. near Aldo's Harbor Restaurant, general manager Alfredo Servin said. The diner is right on the water at 616 Atlantic Ave., and Servin said he could also see a lot of debris. Harbor officials advised the public to evacuate the area.
"Do not come to the harbor to secure your vessel," said a warning on the harbor's website. "Harbor crews are working to secure the area."
Servin said he could see quite a few people out in the harbor, but it was not clear if they were all emergency officials. He said his restaurant was not open for business.
"We don't want to put people in danger," he said. "We have highway and city police advising us what to do."
The county's beaches were closed Friday morning along with roads to the Santa Cruz Beach Flats area, including the Boardwalk and Wharf, officials said. The closures included Beach Street at the Wharf, Riverside Avenue at Third Street, Laurel Street Extension at Third Street, and Pacific Avenue at Center Street. The areas will reopen once the warning has been lifted, officials said.
Santa Cruz County residents in coastal or low-lying areas were also told to evacuate their homes and move to higher ground, county spokesman Sahagun said. Reception areas were established at a fire department community center, the Santa Cruz Auditorium, the county fairgrounds, a park in Capitola, and Resurrection Church.
San Mateo County officials also advised residents in the low-lying areas west of Highway 1 to move to ground east of the highway, according to the county's emergency alert system. Evacuation shelters were established at several local high schools and an elementary school.
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, transit officials monitored the situation to see if they needed to alter service due to the tsunami warning. BART officials initially considered suspending service through the Transbay Tube, but as of about 8:40 a.m., the agency had decided the waves were not substantial enough to warrant the closure, spokesman Linton Johnson said. The Transbay Tube and the San Francisco and Peninsula stations are underground or below sea level and could potentially be damaged if the waves were higher, Johnson said.
San Francisco police closed Great Highway at about 5 a.m. Friday from Point Lobos at 48th Avenue to Lake Merced, police Lt. Troy Dangerfield said. The 18-46th Avenue and 23-Monterey San Francisco Municipal Railway lines were rerouted off of Great Highway as a result, Muni officials said.
Earlier Friday morning, the bluffs above San Francisco's Ocean Beach were dotted with spectators who had heard about the tsunami warning and couldn't resist seeing the effects for themselves. At about 8:30 a.m., the sun was shining, the air was warm, and the waves seemed no more dramatic than most days, several Sunset District residents said.
"This looks normal," said construction salesman Greg Miller, who lives a few blocks from the beach. Standing on a bluff near Great Highway and Vicente Street, Miller said he wasn't worried about the tsunami warning.
"It hit Hawaii and didn't seem to do anything to Hawaii," he said.
Ben Derbidge and Garrick Bowie, both 39, agreed that the waves seemed about average. They live across the street from the beach and said they don't feel vulnerable to tsunamis -- despite the installation of tsunami evacuation route signs in the neighborhood in recent years.
"There's one right in front of our house," Derbidge said. Most of the region's schools remained open Friday, but all Pacifica schools were closed as a precaution, school district officials announced. The district office and its departments were also closed, according to the Pacifica School District.