Humboldt County Tsunami

Hank Sims / Friday, March 11, 2011 @ 6:55 a.m. /


Samoa Bridge is closed due to the tsunami warning, and county emergency officials are attempting to evacuate low-lying areas.

Highway 101 south of Crescent City, and also near Orick, is closed.

Power is out in downtown Eureka.

UPDATE, 7:53 a.m.

According to the PG&E twitter feed, the Humboldt Bay Power Plant is closed. The company is asking residents to conserve power.

UPDATE 8:04 a.m.

KHUM callers reporting the first large waves have hit. The wave activity peak is expected to be between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

UPDATE 8:08 a.m.

Humboldt State geologist Lori Dengler tells Cliff Berkowitz that first surge in Crescent City looked like it was about 2 to 2 and a half feet high. Peak wave height, between 10 and noon, could be about twice that.

"We do have a tsunami. It's real."

Surges hit the shore irregularly -- between every fifteen minutes and every hour.

We're lucky, Dengler says, in that this is hitting us at low tide.

UPDATE 8:32 a.m.

Caltrans' Ann Jones provides Cliff Berkowitz with a list of closed highways. Hwy 101 is closed at multiple points throughout Del Norte County, and at Big Lagoon in Humboldt County. Highway 255 is closed at Samoa Bridge.

Jones asks people to call the Caltrans information line -- 1-800-GAS-ROAD -- for the most current information.

UPDATE 8:35 a.m.

From KHUM callers: Bay levels dropping at the moment, surge probably coming. Red Cross setting up camp at Redwood Acres. Some evacuees gathering at Sequoia Park.

UPDATE 8:54 a.m.

Caller "Alex from Mendocino" reports that Westport residents were evacuated starting at about 4:30 a.m. People are standing at Noyo Bridge, watching the "big, pushing surges" come in. 

UPDATE 8:59 a.m.

Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey has declared a local state of emergency.

UPDATE 9:27 a.m.

Reports are coming in of Crescent City harbor suffering severe damage from the first surge; observers at the scene report 30-45 boats damaged or destroyed.

We're trying to get Del Norte officials on the line, but the entire world seems to be focused on the town at the moment.

UPDATE 9:31 a.m.

More twitter reports from Crescent City say that most or all of the docks in the harbor have been washed away.

UPDATE 9:33 a.m.

KHUM listener "Mike," in McKinleyville, tells about a "wall of water" that rocketed up Mad River.

UPDATE 9:40 a.m.

Cliff Berkowitz with renown Humboldt State Geologist Lori Dengler about the Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami twice this morning. Audio below:

6 a.m.

8 a.m.

UPDATE 10 a.m.

Mad River Hospital calls in to say that they're open for business.

Troy Niccolini of the National Weather Service says that the tsunami warning will last all day. Be careful; continue to stay well away from the ocean.

Los Bagels Eureka is closed. Owner Dennis Rael says that he was advised to close early this morning; apparently, many businesses downtown are closed, but the area has not been evacuated.

Two-for-one deals on bread and bagels at Los Bagels Arcata.

UPDATE 10:10 a.m.

Surges of over eight feet hitting Crescent City currently. Slate explains why our neighbor to the north is the most tsunami-prone town in the nation.

UPDATE 10:30 a.m.

The Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services says that it has received no confirmed reports of damage around Humboldt Bay or Orick, but has heard unconfirmed reports of some damage to boats in the harbor.

They confirm that 35 boats were severely damaged in Crescent City, but have not heard any reports of damage to structures there. Docks have been destroyed, per theTimes-Standard.

UPDATE 10:49 a.m.

Shiloh from Brookings sends in these before-and-after pics from the coastline up his way. Please send photos and video to studio@khum.com.



UPDATE, 10:56 a.m.

A press release from the City of Eureka and Humboldt County says that this morning's rolling outages are over, but that power is out in Orick. The waves washed over 101 near Freshwater at one point earlier this morning, the release says, but it has since receded but no damage has been reported. 

UPDATE 11:14 a.m.

Sacramento TV getting confirmation from state officials that homes have been damaged in Crescent City. See this unembeddable video.

UPDATE 11:23 a.m.

The looky-loos at Elk River Road.



UPDATE, 11:33 a.m.

The Daily Triplicate posts an update from Crescent City, with photos of the wrecked harbor.

UPDATE 11:41 a.m.

The Associated Press is confirming that four people were swept out to sea in Crescent City. Two of the four were found alive; one is missing; and another is confirmed dead.

UPDATE 12:25 p.m.

A listener -- Conor Shea -- sends in pretty great video of a surge wave that came up Mad River earlier this morning.

UPDATED 12:49 p.m.

UPDATE 1:03 p.m.

The Los Angeles Times reports that docks have been ripped out in Fort Bragg.

UPDATE 1:07 p.m.

A new press release from the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services confirms that a local state of emergency has been declared. There are voluntary evacuation warnings in place for the low-lying areas of the county, and the Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at Redwood Acres. Highway 101 at Orick and Highway 255 are still closed.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m.

Matt Bloemer from the National Weather Service tells Mike Dronkers that it's far from safe to head back toward the water. "We still expect to see several more hours of tsunami wave activity to affect the coastline," he said.

Crescent City is still getting seven-foot surges, according to Bloemer. Several search and rescue operations are underway in Del Norte County. Humboldt has thus far escaped pretty much unscathed, given the "sheltered nature" of our harbors.

What does the tsunami look like here? Like a complete daily tidal cycle compressed into 15 minutes, according to Bloemer and KHUM callers. The water recedes to super-low levels, then flows back to the high-water mark four times an hour.

UPDATE, 1:35 p.m.

The Oregonian is reporting major damage in Brookings.

UPDATE, 1:45 p.m. 

A press release the Alameda Office of the Coast Guard just came in. Highlights:

-- Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay's MH-65C helicopters are continuing to search for a person in the water near the Klamath River, reportedly swept out to sea while trying to photograph tsunami waves.

-- Six vessels have sunk or are overturned in Santa Cruz Harbor. Coast Guard responder crews are at the harbor that was evacuated due to an oil sheen leaking from the vessels.

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m. 

Power is back on in Orick, says PG&E's Alison Talbott.

UPDATE, 1:55 p.m.

Here's Mike Dronkers' interview with Matt Bloemer of the National Weather Service.


UPDATE, 2:05 p.m.

Not sure if this is Crescent City or Oregon, but this is one crazy video. 


UPDATE, 2:32 p.m.

Absolutely incredible time-lapse video of a surge hitting Crescent City harbor:


UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.

Aerial photos of the mouth of the Mad River area during the tidal surges, courtesy of the Sheriff's Office:


UPDATE, 3:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service has downgraded Oregon and California from a "tsunami warning" to a "tsunami advisory."

Humboldt County's Heather Muller, working in the emergency services office, says that the Del Norte County fishing boats who went to sea in advance of the tsunami are now trying to make it down to moor at Humboldt Bay. Their office is currently attempting to provide assistance.


Here's an incomplete list of school closures, which we will update as more info becomes available.

-- Eureka City Schools

-- Cutten and Ridgewood Schools

-- Arcata Elementary School District

-- Pacific Union

-- McKinleyville elementary schools.

-- Hydesville

-- Coastal Grove School (Arcata)

-- Fuente Nueva (Arcata)

-- College of the Redwoods

-- Blue Lake 

-- Big Lagoon

-- Jacoby Creek

-- Rohnerville

-- Union Street

-- Fortuna High

-- Garfield, Greenpoint schools


-- Ferndale

-- HSU

-- Cuddeback

-- McKinleyville High, Arcata High.