SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5 / KCBS) — A Tsunami Warning was in effect for the San Francisco Bay Area along with the entire U.S. West Coast, following a magnitude 8.9 earthquake that slammed Japan's northeastern coast Friday, unleashing a 13-foot tsunami that killed hundreds and swept boats, cars, buildings and tons of debris miles inland there.
The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center gave an estimated time of initial wave arrival at the mouth of San Francisco Bay of 8:08 a.m. Pacific Time. Other estimated tsunami arrival times in Northern California included Point Arena at 7:26 a.m., Point Reyes at 7:39 a.m., and Monterey at 7:44 a.m.
The warning meant a large wave or waves were imminent and coastal flooding could be expected.
The tide began rising shortly after 7:30 a.m. along beaches in Crescent City, where the tsunami was expected to hit the hardest in Northern California.
The National Weather Service estimated that waves hitting Crescent City would have heights between 6-and-7 feet, north of Point Conception would be between 3-and-7 feet. But by the time it hits the Marin County coast south to Monterey, including San Francisco, the highest water was estimated to reach about two feet.
Other forecasted wave heights included 4.2 feet for Arena Cove, 2.0 feet for Point Reyes, 2.4 feet for Fort Point, 2.8 feet for Pacifica, 3.0 feet for Half Moon Bay, 3.3 feet for Santa Cruz, 5.3 feet for Rio del Mar and 2.9 feet for Point Sur.
NWS forecaster Steve Anderson cautioned that it was not just one little wave but rather a surge of water. He said tsunamis usually occur in a series surges and the coastal Bay Area could see three to five surges of varying sizes throughout the morning.
Emergency management officials said the Tsunami Warning was in effect for the Bay Area counties of San Francisco, Sonoma, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara.
San Mateo County Evacuations
San Mateo County was evacuating all beaches and low-lying coastal areas west of Highway 1 in response to the approaching tsunami.
Residents in the Linda Mar area of Pacifica were advised to evacuate to the east of Adobe Drive. Those in El Granada were told to evacuate to the east of Coronado Street.
Evacuation shelters were established at Terra Nova High School at 1450 Terra Nova Blvd., Oceana High School at 401 Paloma Ave., Farallone View Elementary School at 1100 Le Conte Ave., and Pescadero High School at 350 Butano Cutoff, officials said.
Hundreds of cars parked on the side of state Highway 92 as people evacuated from coastal San Mateo County, but the California Highway Patrol was advising people to park instead along Canada Road, which is located nearby, so that emergency vehicles could get through the area.
San Francisco Road Closures
In San Francisco, police closed the Great Highway from Point Lobos at 48th Avenue to Lake Merced, but the city didn't order any evacuations.
Numerous flights between Japan and San Francisco International Airport were canceled or rerouted, officials said.
Bay Area Rapid Transit officials said they were considering whether to cancel train service between West Oakland and Daly City as a precaution, but trains continued running for the time being.
The stations in that area are underground or below sea level and officials were preparing for the possibility of water getting inside the stations and tunnels.
Santa Cruz County Evacuations
Santa Cruz County also issued an evacuation advisory, telling residents who live in coastal or low-lying areas to evacuate their homes and move to higher ground.
Reception areas were established at Davenport Fire Department Community Center, Jade Street Park in Capitola, Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium at 307 Church St. in Santa Cruz, Resurrection Church at State Park Drive, and the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds off East Lake Avenue. For assistance or for further information call (831) 458-7150.
Santa Cruz police reported that roads to Santa Cruz Beach Flats area, including the Boardwalk and Wharf, were closed. 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.
Throughout the region, low-lying coastal areas should expect to see tidal inundations, the weather service said, and sea levels were expected to rise by about a half-meter to a meter by 7:30 a.m.
Officials advised those people along coastal areas to move away from the water and avoid beaches, harbors and marinas.
Dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful currents was possible and may continue for several hours after arrival of the initial wave, officials warned.
Crescent City Impact
Fishermen in Crescent City fired up their crab boats and left the harbor to ride out the swell, while Humboldt County sheriff's deputies went door to door at dawn to urge residents in low-lying areas to seek higher ground. A tsunami in 1964 killed 11 people in Crescent City.
A Tsunami Warning was also in effect Friday for Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific Ocean, impacting about 20 countries.
The tsunami hit Hawaii prior to reaching the U.S. mainland, but did not cause major damage. The first waves hit Hawaii about 6 a.m. Pacific Time. A tsunami about 7 feet high was recorded on Maui and a wave at least 3 feet high was recorded on Oahu and Kauai.
The first mainland locale to have high water reach it was Port Orford, Oregon.