Thursday, November 16, 2006

Crescent City tsunami damage

Yesterday evening as I walked into my husband's office, he waved me into silence and pointed wordlessly at the radio, upon which someone was announcing that five to six foot tsunami waves had hit Crescent City, California, and caused extensive damage. Now, I'd be shocked to hear that about any city, but Crescent City is dear to our hearts and we were devastated. I ran to the computer and surfed the internet and found just all sorts of reports, most of them headlining five to six foot waves, but relaying that damage seemed to be confined to the harbor and no one had been killed or injured so far as anyone knew. The lead-ins were of waves, the later text leaned toward people talking about rivers forming in the ocean. There seemed to be all sorts of disconnects, even contradictions, and I didn't know what to believe.

I finally found my way to the Crescent City paper, The Daily Triplicate, which had a notice to the effect that everything was under control, everyone was OK, and there would be a full story today. Somewhat relieved, I went to bed.

With permission, here's an article written by Karen Wilkinson, Triplicate staff writer and published online earlier today:


A series of small tidal surges slammed into the Crescent City Harbor Wednesday afternoon, destroying two docks, taking chunks out of another and damaging at least 10 boats.

"It was like a river going through here a little while ago," said fisherman Jeff Ruth of the Orca. "I've never seen the tide surge like that ever."

A magnitude 8.1 undersea earthquake that struck Japan's coastline at 3:14 a.m. Pacific time created tidal surges that starting hitting the Crescent City Harbor just before noon.

Fisherman Victor Reneau said the first surge measured about 8 inches, an estimation he recorded because "we were all standing around curious."

Harbormaster Richard Young said he thought the harbor was in the clear after the initial surge, which he'd been warned of earlier in the day.

But some time after 1 p.m. he noticed the water quickly running in and out of the harbor from his harbor office.

"We thought, ‘Gee, look at that, it's the tidal wave,'" Young said jokingly.

Shortly thereafter, he saw that H dock had broken in half, so he jumped up and helped secure a floating boat.

Young said H and G docks were completely destroyed and F dock was "severely damaged."

Though it's still too early to give an exact figure, Young said replacement costs of the docks could range from $400,000 to $600,000 range.

Other reports estimated the damage as high as $700,000.

"We're going to have a lot of work to do," he said. "So it's going to be very expensive."

On top of the damaged docks, between 10 and 15 boats were damaged and 10 had to be resecured.

The rate and speed that the waters rushed did more damage than the size of the surges, Young said.

"It didn't even look like a wave — the water was just raising and falling rapidly," he said. "It was the rate of change rather than the magnitude of change."

Fisherman John Hale said the surge came in quietly, without warning. "It was just a little wave, then all of a sudden (stuff) started falling apart," he said.

Lori Dengler, chairwoman of the Humboldt State University geology department, said the largest surge measured five feet. "And it occurred at low tide, which was nice — very polite of it so far," she said. "The Crescent City Harbor is just the right size and shape to get excited when tsunamis come."

More than just the harbor got excited by the damage the surges inflicted.

Local residents flocked to the harbor just after the dock damage occurred, flying through the parking lot in cars while onlookers snapped photos and took video recordings. Others stood around relaying messages to friends and family via cell phone.

Lester Cramer, who owns a boat but parks it out of the water, agreed that the surge was eerie. "I've lived here for 39 years, and this is the first time I've seen anything like that," he said.

The Triplicate has more articles and photos.

The main reason Crescent City is dear to my heart is that every time I've visited there, total strangers have made me feel right at home. I haven't been able to visit for several years (as friends and regular readers know, we've had our own troubles which have made travel impossible), but there was a genuineness about that town that impressed me.

The folks there struck me as the sort who know how to bounce back from setbacks like this, but if there's some way you can toss a little help or business their way I'd appreciate it.

hat tip: The Curry Coastal Pilot

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