All is calm now at Pillar Point Harbor where tsunami waves that hit this morning shortly after 8 a.m. did not appear to cause any significant damage, but there is still a potential for two more waves to come sometime Friday in the next five to six hours.
The waters off Pillar Point Harbor experienced a 5-foot rise shortly after at 8 a.m. Friday, according to Ken Lord, spokesperson for Cal Fire. "There was no noticeable damage to any vessels or surrounding properties, except for an abalone farm located in Pillar Point Harbor," Lord said. "It broke loose."
Residents in the low-lying coastal areas were notified to voluntarily evacuate, said Art Montiel, spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol.
"We targeted about 2,650 homes through reverse 9-1-1," Lord said, "and made phone calls notifying them about the voluntary evacuation at around 4:20 a.m." The calls were made to residences in the low-lying coastal areas, he said.
This morning, the California Highway Patrol closed beaches on the San Mateo County coastside from the Devil's Slide south to Ano Nuevo State Beach, Montiel said.
"We're just trying to keep an eye on the coast to make sure that the water levels don't rise," said Jeremy Lostrom, a California Highway Patrol officer who was monitoring the entrance to Montara State Beach this morning with two other officers. This morning, Lostrom was turning cars away and did not allow cars to park on the west side of Highway 1.
As of 1 p.m., the tsunami warning is still in effect for the California coast, following the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck off the northeast coast of Japan on Thursday night.
Throughout the day, tourists and other onlookers have been gathering near ocean view points in San Francisco and along the Peninsula to see if the tsunami had any effect on ocean tides.
"I thought if something cool was going to happen, now was the time to see it," said Karen J. Malesky, a science teacher who lives in Palmetto, FL. "I came out for the National Science Teachers Association conference, and this is the first time I've seen the Pacific since I arrived."
But such curiosity had deadly consequences in the northern part of the state, where U.S. Coast Guard crews are searching for a man who was swept out to sea by tsunami waves near Crescent City this morning, a petty officer said.
Petty Officer Rachel Polish said shortly after 10 a.m., a group of men were taking photos of the waves near the Klamath River when they were swept out to sea by a wave, Polish said. Two of the men were able to swim back to shore, but the third remained missing as of 12:15 p.m., she said.
She said the Coast Guard's Sector San Francisco is working closely with both the search in Crescent City, and with cases of boats crashing into each other in Santa Cruz.
Officials estimate the waves have caused about $2 million in damage at the Santa Cruz Harbor, where several boats got loose and crashed into each other. Two boats capsized and another crashed into a bridge, officials said. No injuries have been reported in the Santa Cruz incidents.
Polish said the Coast Guard is requesting that everyone stays away from low-lying coastal areas such as beaches and jetties for the near future. "It's for their safety," she said. "Given the state of these waves, it's in everyone's best interest."
Bay Area residents say they've had relatives calling from other parts of the country to make sure they were all right. "I got a text message this morning at 7 a.m. from family in Ohio that said, 'Have you heard anything? Are you okay?'" said Tom Riedel, who lives in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood. "They told me to take a video."
In Santa Cruz, about 10 boats had gotten loose and were crashing into one another at about 9:20 a.m. in the harbor near Aldo's Harbor Restaurant, said general manager Alfredo Servin. The diner is right on the water at 616 Atlantic Ave, and Servin said he could see also see a lot of debris.
Harbor officials have 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."
Flights between Japan and San Francisco International Airport were canceled or rerouted this morning. United Airlines Flight 837 and All Nippon Airways Flight NH7 were en route to Tokyo-Narita International Airport from San Francisco when the earthquake struck and were rerouted to Yokota Air Force Base and Nagoya Airport, respectively, airport spokesman Michael McCarron said in a statement.
All Nippon Airways has also canceled the rest of their scheduled flights to and from Japan for Friday. United Airlines canceled a flight from Japan this morning but had not yet canceled Flight 837, which was scheduled to leave San Francisco for Tokyo at 9 a.m. Delta Airlines Flight 58 was expected to arrive at SFO at 7:09 a.m. while Flight 59 to SFO was canceled, McCarron said. Information regarding Japan Airlines flights was not immediately available.
The National Weather Service issued a tsunami alert around 5:30 this morning, and a tsunami warning was then issued for coastal areas of California around 7:45 a.m.
BART initially feared it might have to cancel certain trains but later decided that would not be necessary, though they are still closely watching the situation.
A significant surge could have affected the Transbay Tube and underground stations in San Francisco.
Information released by BART indicated that "A key decision point will be the the wave size north in Crescent City. If waves there are below 8 feet as predicted, trains will operate normally. If waves are above 10 feet we will almost certainly stop service between West Oakland and Daly City stations. Given the nature of our underground tunnels and stations we are exercising extreme caution."
According to news reports this afternoon waves at Crescent City had reached 8 feet, and at least one man had been killed in the high surf.
Golden Gate Ferry and Golden Gate Transit are operating on regular schedules, according to spokeswoman Mary Currie. The Vallejo waterfront has been shut down, and Vallejo Baylink Ferry service is currently closed.
A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said this morning that there likely will be little impact in the San Francisco Bay.
"Basically it really shouldn’t affect anywhere except up near the Golden Gate Bridge," said Petty Officer Levi Read. "We don't expect anything on the Bay to be in any danger. We would ask people to stay away from the water just in case."
The Port of Oakland is operating and ferries are running, said Read. Non-commercial craft are being advised to stay off the water, he added.
"The surge is not going to affect the Bay," he said. "But there might be a little more motion in the water."
Wave height forecasts are as follows: 2.4 feet for Fort Point in San Francisco; 2.8 feet in Pacifica; 3 feet in Half Moon Bay and 3.3 feet in Santa Cruz.
The Great Highway was closed from Point Lobos at 48th Avenue to Lake Merced, San Francisco Police Lt. Troy Dangerfield said. Residents are asked to avoid this area until further notice.
Learn more about wave arrival times for specific areas here.
"Due to rapidly changing conditions associated with tsunami wave activity... listeners are urged to tune to local emergency alert system media for the latest information issued by local disaster preparedness authorities. They will provide details on the evacuation of low-lying areas... if necessary... and when it is safe to return after the tsunami has passed," the National Weather Service noted.
The last tsunami to hit Northern California did so in 2005, according to the National Geophysical Data Center. There were no reported fatalities.
Tsunami alerts are based on the magnitude of the earthquake that triggers it. For earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.5 or above, a watch is put into effect for areas within three hours tsunami-travel time outside the zone where warnings have been issued, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A watch is either upgraded to a warning or canceled depending on the severity of the tsunami.
According to the Weather Service, "A Tsunami Warning means that all coastal residents in the warning area who are near the beach or in low-lying regions should move immediately inland to higher ground and away from all harbors and inlets including those sheltered directly from the sea. Those feeling the earth shake, seeing unusual wave action, or the water level rising or receding may have only a few minutes before the tsunami arrival and should move immediately. Homes and small buildings are not designed to withstand tsunami impacts. Do not stay in these structures."
Read more from the National Weather Service about conditions around the Bay Area here. Find from the National Weather Service.
Bay City News and Eve Pearlman contributed to this report.