Tsunami waves have begun to hit the Northern California coast this morning. The National Weather Service issued a tsunami warning for much of California’s coast after the massive 8.9 earthquake that struck off Japan’s northeastern coast earlier today, killing hundreds of people.
10:54 a.m.: Highway 1 closed
There is a severe traffic alert in Half Moon Bay that has Highway 1 closed in both directions because of tsunami warnings for low-lying coastal areas. Traffic is being diverted away from Highway 1 and the coast area. Motorists are advised to avoid the area and expect delays. The estimated time to reopen the roadway is 7:30 p.m.
10:47 a.m.: Oakland A’s to help disaster victims
The Oakland A’s announced today that the team will help raise funds to aid victims of the disaster in Janpan. The A’s open the 2011 season with a three-game series at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum against the Seattle Mariners, and plans are being made to add a fundraising component for Japanese Heritage Day, scheduled for the series’ final game April 3.
Details of the benefit game, which will feature Japan’s two greatest modern-day players in Oakland’s Hideki Matsui and Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, will be announced at a later date.
Matsui, a native of Ishikawa, Japan, and resident of Tokyo in the offseason, issued this statement: “I am deeply concerned and affected by what is happening in Japan. I pray for the safety of all the people that have been affected and continue to be affected by this disaster.”
The A’s said they will be working closely with Hiroshi Inomata, San Francisco’s Japanese Consul-General, and other community leaders in their efforts to support the tsunami victims.
10:41 a.m.: Oil cargoes to S.F., Oakland ports suspended
The U.S. Coast Guard temporarily halted oil and hazardous liquid shipments to San Francisco and Oakland ports after a tsunami warning was issued for the West Coast, spokesman Levi Read said in a telephone interview. The suspension was issued about 8 a.m. local time, Read said.
10:38 a.m.: Fremont woman waits to hear from dad
Yuki Saito-Miller, of Fremont, who grew up in Sendai, was out to dinner Thursday night and heard someone mention a quake in Japan, but thought little of it — quakes happen there all the time, she said. Then early this morning, a friend sent a text asking if her family was safe, and she finally turned on the news.
That’s when her heart started pounding.
“There were headlines about hundreds dead,” said Saito-Miller, a former photographer and image-desk worker for Bay Area News Group. “That’s when I had a panic moment. I’ve seen people suffering after the quakes in Haiti and New Zealand, but I never had this kind of thing hit so close to home before.”
Saito-Miller was relieved to reach her mother and sister and find them safe, but she still has not heard from her father.
“My parents live in Sendai, but farther away from the coast, so I’m not too concerned about him being in danger of the tsunami effects,” she said. “But he is likely without power and gas. I’m hoping he’s OK.”
Her mother had been visiting Saito-Miller’s sister in the northern Aomori prefecture. They felt the powerful quake and have also lost power, but they were not injured. Now it’s a waiting game to hear from her dad.
“He’s not the type who brings his cell phone around all the time, so it’s just a matter of time to get through to him,” she said. “That will happen by tonight, I hope.”
10:33 a.m.: Sister cities in Japan
Several Bay Area cities have sister cities in Japan, including Concord, whose sister city Kitakami is in the coastal Iwate prefecture.
Alameda is a sister city with Arita, which is located in the Saga prefecture. Antioch is sister city to Chichibu, a city in Saitama prefecture, about 1½ hours from Tokyo.
Oakland’s sister city is Sukuoka, which is on the northern shore of the island Kyushu, far from where the quake shook. Hercules’ sister city is Tsushima, 200 miles away from Tokyo.
Alhambra High in Martinez has a long-standing relationship with the schools in Shizuoka prefecture, southwest of Tokyo.
In Southern California, Riverside is longtime sister city with Sendai, the coastal city closest to the quake’s epicenter.
10:19 a.m.: BART unaffected but on alert
BART service has not yet been affected by tsunami waves, agency spokesman Linton Johnson said.
BART officials initially considered shutting down service through the Transbay Tube between Oakland and San Francisco and at stations down toward Daly City when the tsunami warning was issued early this morning, Johnson said.
After looking closely at reports coming in from around the Bay Area and elsewhere in California, BART officials do not consider the waves substantial enough to shut down service.
But Johnson said “we’re not out of the woods” yet because the ocean water levels in Crescent City are still rising.
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.
10:03 a.m.: No boat damage at Pillar Point
Wave surges have resulted in 5-foot tidal changes within Pillar Point Harbor, north of Half Moon Bay, but no boats have been damaged, Coastside fire Capt. Ken Lord said.
“We’re not seeing nearly what they’re seeing up in Santa Cruz or up in Humboldt County,” he said.
About 60 Coastside residents have taken shelter inside Half Moon Bay High School and another 200 people are outside the high school awaiting word about whether they can return to their homes. Another 50 people are inside Farallone View Elementary in Montara, Lord said.
Fisherman Jim Anderson said an abalone pen broke loose at Pillar Point Harbor, and some boats were “leaned over,” but conditions were otherwise calm.
9:58 a.m.: Coast Guard actions
Northern California Coast Guard response crews are conducting the following actions to assess and respond to any impacts to area shorelines as a result of the tsunami:
9:47 a.m.: Bigger waves expected later
Tsunami waves have started hitting the shores of Humboldt Bay. While the first wave hit about 7:30 his morning, meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Eureka are estimating that peak waves will hit between 9:30 a.m. and noon. The series of waves are expected to last for eight to 10 hours.
Meteorologist Sten Tjaden said the first wave in a tsunami event is not usually the largest, so residents should continue to be cautious.
“We’re not expecting any great impacts in the bay other than the increased current from the wave coming in and going out, but definitely, we want people to stay away from the beaches and low lying areas,” he said. “The biggest impacts are going to be in Crescent City.”
Tjaden said the first wave in Crescent City measured a little over 3 feet with a draw down of 5.8 feet. Damages are reported, the extent of which are unclear.
In the Bay Area, Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda remains open, as do the San Francisco public schools.
9:38 a.m.: $2M damage at Santa Cruz Harbor
A Santa Cruz County spokesperson has told CBS5 that preliminary estimates show up to $2 million in damage has occurred at Santa Cruz Harbor.
The CHP is reporting that houses have been damaged in Crescent City, according to ABC7.
On the Peninsula, Pacifica schools also are closed today.
9:33 a.m.: Damage in Crescent City
Crescent City Councilman Rich Enea tells KCBS 35 boats have been crushed and all docks are gone at Crescent City harbor.
9:30 a.m.: State’s nuke plants operating normally
Federal regulators say California’s Diablo Canyon and San Onofre nuclear power plants are operating normally and are being monitored by inspectors during the West Coast tsunami threat.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan says the San Luis Obispo and northern San Diego County plants are taking precautions because of today’s magnitude-8.9 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
The NRC resident inspector at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is monitoring the plant’s response to an area tsunami warning, and Sheehan says the plant has declared an “unusual event,” the lowest of four levels of emergency classification. It is operating normally.
Sheehan says in a statement that the San Onofre nuclear power plant is also operating normally.
The NRC says nuclear plants are designed to withstand tsunamis and earthquakes.
9:14 a.m.: ‘Safest place to be in a tsunami’
Half Moon Bay fisherman Duncan Maclean got into his boat, the Barbara Faye, and headed out to sea this morning when he heard a tsunami was coming.
“It’s the safest place to be in a tsunami,” Maclean said. “I have a substantial investment here I have to protect.”
A few other fishermen out at Pillar Point Harbor were following his lead this morning.
Maclean was about six miles offshore as of 9:05 a.m.
“There’s a big swell that seems to building, but I don’t think it’s coming from a tsunami. I think its coming from a storm,” Maclean said. “I think it’s not going to hit as severely as they predicted.”
9:11 a.m.: Shell evacuates some Martinez workers
Royal Dutch Shell PLC has evacuated nonessential workers from the wharf at its Martinez refinery because of a tsunami forecast, according to a statement from the company. “No major impact is anticipated,” the company said.
9:09 a.m.: SFO affected
At San Francisco International Airport, all inbound flights from Tokyo are canceled and all Hawaiian flights operating normally, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said. United Airlines and Japan Airlines hope to send flights to Tokyo, but that’s not yet certain, he said.
9:02 a.m.: Half Moon Bay, Pescadero schools closed
Highway 92 is at gridlock with people leaving Half Moon Bay, Coastside fire Capt. Ken Ward said. No waves had hit the coast yet as of 8:55 a.m., but Ward said a tsunami can last for up to 12 hours after the initial surge.
“We’re certainly not out of the woods yet,” he said.
More than 2,860 homes in Half Moon Bay and the Midcoast area of San Mateo County received automated evacuation phone calls before 4:20 a.m. today, and Ward estimated that 65 percent of those residents picked up the phone.
Several neighborhoods in Half Moon Bay on the west side of Highway 1 were evacuated, with officers in the streets directing people toward higher ground. In El Granada, those living east of Coronado Street were told to leave their homes.
All public school in Half Moon Bay and Pescadero are closed for the day. Ward said that as of 8:55 a.m., there were 70 evacuees at Half Moon Bay High School and 22 evacuees at Farallone View Elementary in Montara.
8:55 a.m.: Eureka schools closed
Eureka city schools have been closed today. Superintendent Gregg Haulk sent this message to employees and families: “Due to the Tsunami warning for Humboldt County we are closing all of our facilities for the day. Please follow all warnings and emergency personnel in your area.”
8:52 a.m.: S.F.’s Ocean Beach closed
Ocean Beach in San Francisco is closed. Curious people are standing on the bluffs along the Great Highway waiting for the tsunami. Not one surfer is in sight, but one man is walking on the beach with his dog.
There is a runaway boat in Santa Cruz harbor and some damage at the harbor. A small zodiac is capsized and floating, and a larger boat slipped its moorings and is floating.
8:45 a.m.: Watching waves in Santa Cruz County
At 7:45 a.m. when the first wave was supposed to hit in Santa Cruz County, there was a small crowd of people gathered at Lighthouse Point. Surfers were in the water trying to catch some of the waves.
Loren Burke, 23, of La Selva Beach, a construction worker from the Westside, was surfing this morning with three friends. Burke grew up in the county and doesn’t remember ever hearing a tsunami warning before. He said he was excited seeing the ocean this morning but didn’t expect to see a big wave hit.
“The waves were about 7 foot, and it was a lot of fun,” Burke said after he got out of the water just after 8 a.m.
At Cowell Beach, surfers watched as the tsunami surge sucked water out of the area, sending funky waves back in, something most had never seen before but not causing any immediate damage.
At the harbor mouth, water was being sucked out at a rapid rate and about 20 minutes later rushed back in, said Dan Haifley, executive director of O’Neill Sea Odyssey. Haifley said it tipped the dredge, but it did not capsize.
Diana Henderson of the National Weather Service in Monterey said the series of waves could last for several hours and urged people to stay away from the coast.
8:42 a.m.: No cancellations at Oakland airport
Oakland International Airport has no direct flights to Japan. They have had no canceled flights so far, including flights to Hawaii.
8:38 a.m.: Surfers at Pleasure Point
The road closures didn’t prevent the usual crop of surfers from taking to the water off Pleasure Point. A crowd of six at sunrise at the spot known as The Hook at the base of 41st Avenue had swelled to 20 by 7 a.m. The waves were a decent size — 3 to 6 feet — but spawned by a west swell that had been predicted long before the earthquake hit Japan.
While a few were playing it safe — “I’m getting out by 7:30, can’t justify it to the wife and kids,” one said — others seemed to be passing it off as a typically overhyped natural event that may or may not even be noticed.
By 7:30 a.m., minutes from the tsunami’s expected arrival, the water still was littered with surfers, and a half dozen more were perched atop the cliff above, deciding whether to put on their own wetsuits and paddle out. Though an electronic sign next to O’Neill Surf Shop on 41st Avenue flashed “TSUNAMI WARNING,” more cars were pressing onward than turning back, a number of them with surfboards strapped to the roof.
8:33 a.m.: Waves hitting Bay Area
Waves are beginning to hit the Bay Area, but it has been fairly quiet so far.
More than 100 South Coast residents left their homes before 8 a.m. today and headed for the hills or drove to Pescadero High School, which has been set up as an evacuation center, according to Kerry Lobel, executive director of Puente de la Coast Sur, a local charity.
Puente joined local ranchers in going door-to-door and calling people who live between Highway 1 and the ocean, including farmworkers. Lobel said she was notified of the tsunami evacuation warning at 3:45 a.m. and set her staff into action along with a large group of CERT-trained Pescadero High School student volunteers.
“Most everyone got very worried and left home,” she said.
8:31 a.m.: Water moving out
Water is receding from the beach near the Santa Cruz wharf. One can walk instead of paddle about 100 meters out as the water keeps pulling back even more. Surfers are walking back in.
8:26 a.m.: Santa Cruz area
Some areas near Aptos have been evacuated, and people are clogging Highway 17 as they try to get to higher ground. Three- to 6-foot waves are expected, which could be bad for some areas like Rio Del Mar and the harbor.
Some people are out surfing as the first surges begin.
8:17 a.m.: Palo Alto not expecting flooding
The city of Palo Alto has sent a message with regards to the tsunami warning in effect in California. The city has received information that there will be increased wave activity at approximately 8 a.m. This increased wave activity coincides with the low tide and should not exceed 2 feet at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Based on all available information, there is no indication that there will be any flooding or damage within Palo Alto. Police units will be in the Baylands area monitoring the situation.
8:13 a.m.: Update from BART
BART reports that it would shut down train service between the Daly City and West Oakland stations if the tsunami wave is 10 feet or higher, which is higher than the wave expected to hit the Bay Area.
BART officials say they are concerned its many underground tunnels would be at risk if high waters swept into the Bay Area.
8:10 a.m.: Pacifica reaction
Matt Hamilton, who has lived in Pacifica for six years, said his family was leaving the area not because they’re frightened but because they didn’t want to take a risk. Their home is right across the street from the beach.
He said it’s not the first time they’ve had a tsunami- or weather-related scare.
About 10 people are at the Municipal Pier in Pacifica with cameras waiting for the waves to arrive.
7:59 a.m.: Tsunami waves hit mainland U.S.
Tsunami waves have hit the Oregon coast after sweeping Hawaii.
7:55 a.m.: Santa Cruz advisory
Santa Cruz city officials have advised about 6,600 people in the city’s tsunami inundation zone to evacuate, according to Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark. The order is an advisory, not mandatory. That includes the Beach Flats area, along West Cliff Drive, the harbor area and along the San Lorenzo River.
Given low tide, officials are not anticipating any major problems. Anyone who is in the evacuation warning area would have gotten a reverse emergency call from the city’s 911 system.
“We are initiating appropriate protocols,” Clark said.
Business in the Boardwalk and wharf areas likely will be disrupted because of the road closures until the tsunami warning is rescinded later this morning as only emergency personnel are being allowed inside the area, Clark said.
Road closures are Beach Street at the Municipal Wharf, Riverside Avenue at Third Street, Laurel Street Extension at Third Street and Pacific Avenue at Center Street.
Gateway School in Santa Cruz will be closed today.
7:51 a.m. Alameda County official in Japan
Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi was among a delegation of Japanese Americans traveling in Tokyo and witnessed the quake.
The delegation is lead by U.S.-Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye. During the trip the delegates met with new Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and were scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister the afternoon of the earthquake.
The delegation includes members from Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Honolulu, Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Sacramento, Boston, Dallas and Portland, Ore.
7:42 a.m.: Google launches person finder
Mountain View-based Google has launched a person finder site to help those trying to find out about loved ones in Japan. People may enter information on someone they are searching for or someone they have information about.
7:26 a.m.: BART service may be affected
BART officials may cancel train service between West Oakland and Daly City this morning. The stations in that area are underground or below sea level, and officials are preparing for the possibility of water getting inside the stations and tunnels, spokesman Linton Johnson said.
BART has activated its Emergency Operations Center to evaluate the situation and will update the public as they receive more information.
7:21 a.m.: Highway 92 backup
Highway 92 is backing up with traffic as people flee Half Moon Bay for higher ground. The California Highway Patrol is asking people not to park on Highway 92 because they need to keep the highway open. Drivers are advised to continue on to Cañada Road and park there.
7:16 a.m.: Bay Area evacuations
San Mateo County is evacuating all beaches and low-lying coastal areas in response to an approaching tsunami, officials said.
Santa Cruz authorities have closed off access to the Santa Cruz Beach Flats area including the Boardwalk and Municipal Wharf. Those roads include: Beach Street at Municipal Wharf, Riverside Avenue at Third Street, Laurel Street Extension at Third Street and Pacific Avenue at Center Street.
Residents who live in the area were warned with automated telephone calls and were being “strongly advised” to evacuate and reach higher elevations until the potential for damage from waves passes.
Highway 17 out of Santa Cruz is backed up with traffic as people evacuate the area.