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An 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Eastern coast of Japan at 2:46 PM Friday afternoon Tokyo time (9:46 PM PT Thursday night), reportedly “shaking buildings in Tokyo for several minutes and sending people out into the streets.” The quake was followed by “a 10 meter tsunami that swept away boats, homes and cars along the coastline,” and a tsunami warning has been issued for many areas, including San Francisco. At present, emergency officials in the Bay Area are watching and waiting as information on the impending tsunami is gathered. As yet, however, in San Francisco, no evacuations have been ordered, but several areas have been closed. Please keep reading to see details on how local preparations for a possible tsunami might impact you — I’m putting “new” news in bold, for, I hope, optimal skimability.
This is our final update, as it appears things have gone back to normal for SF. At 3:35 PM, According to Mayor Lee , the NOAA officially downgraded the Tsunami Warning for Northern California to a Tsunami Advisory as of 2:30 PM today. “The San Francisco Emergency Operations Center will continue to monitor the tidal activity” he said in a statement.
Great Highway was reopened at 4:30pm, all Muni lines have resumed normal service, and the National Park Service has reopened all beaches. The public is advised to stay out of the water until 2 pm Saturday.
As of 1 PM, Mayor Ed Lee saidin a press briefing that the next thing to watch for is tonight’s high tide, which is expected to begin at 5:21 this afternoon. As aftershocks continue in Japan, it’s important, officials say, to be aware that the threat may not be over just yet.
As of 11:26 AM, Lt. Commander Rick Foster with the Coast Guard tells KTVU broadcast that the tsunami warning for San Francisco has been downgraded to a tsunami advisory. He says that, unlike Crescent City and Santa Cruz, SF has not had any damage. This is, he says, due to the topography of the areas. (It’s worth noting that no one else has confirmed this assertion.) However, people are still advised to stay away from the coastline and out of the water.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that the tsunami could hit Point Arena at 7:26 a.m., Point Reyes at 7:39 a.m., Monterey at 7:44 a.m., and San Francisco at 8:08 a.m. They were estimating waves in the Bay Area will reach heights of 2 to 3 feet, but waves as high as 8 feet are possible at Crescent City in Northern California, officials said.
But that is not just one little wave but rather a surge of water, Anderson said.
Anderson said tsunamis usually occur in a series surges and the coastal Bay Area could see three to five surges of varying sizes this morning.
Muni will be stopped service on all its Ocean-Beach bound light rail lines (that’s the N Judah and the L Taraval) at Sunset Blvd., with a bus shuttle in place to serve customers between the Ocean Beach area and Sunset. The 18 46th Avenue and the 23 Monterey Muni routes are being rerouted off of Great Highway. All other routes and lines will remain on their normal routes until further notice, Muni says. As of 4:30 PM, says Muni, the Great Highway has reopened and the 18 46th Avenue and the 23 Monterey have returned to their normal routes.
BART officials may cancel train service between West Oakland and Daly City between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. this morning as a precaution a spokesman said.
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.
“No service changes are planned at this time. We continue to monitor the situation in both Hawaii and Northern California and we are hopeful given the information that’s coming in.
Given the nature of our underground tunnels and stations we are exercising extreme caution. The situation could change quickly and we will update you as soon as possible if anything changes. ” All trains are, as of 7 AM, running on time, they say.
As of 7:39 AM, BART says “BART running normally: we’re monitoring conditions in Crescent City. If waves are below 8-ft regular service will continue.”
As of 8:56 AM, BART says that “Regular BART service continues. Reports from Crescent City indicate wave levels below 8-ft and we’re still monitoring the situation.”
As of 11:51 AM, “We have been monitoring conditions following the recent tsunami warning in our region and it appears as if any eminent threat has subsided. No service changes are planned at this time though we are continuing to monitor the situation.”
San Francisco police are also closed Great Highway this morning. The highway will be closed from Point Lobos at 48th Avenue to Lake Merced, Lt. Troy Dangerfield said. The National Park Service has also closed Ocean Beach, Baker Beach, China Beach, and Fort Funston.
As of 4:30 p.m., Great Highway has reopened.
Residents are asked to avoid this area until further notice. However, at 8:30 AM, Appeal staffer Chris Roberts went down to Ocean Beach, where he says he saw “a bunch of people sitting in the dunes waiting for something to happen. Some folks” he says” brought their kids, playing in the sand. One guy walked down to the water.”
“Occasionally a cop car would roll past, ‘WE URGE CAUTION’ the cop would say on the loudspeaker, then he’d roll on.” You can see Roberts’ video of the scene at the bottom of this article.
The Coast Guard is putting out a broadcast to ensure that mariners are aware of the tsunami warning, a spokesman said.
They are monitoring the situation and will enforce a contingency plan if necessary, OS2 Kyle Jefferson said.
According to Lt. Franey, via AlertSF, San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM) “is aware of the situation and has assembled an Incident Management Team. DEM has contacted the States Coastal Region who will provide an update to the local level around 0200 hrs.”
At 7:15 AM today, Mayor Lee held media availability to “review San Francisco response to California Tsunami Warning following Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami” on the front steps of the Emergency Operations Center at 1011 Turk Street.
At the event, he said that he did not expect any waves to exceed the Ocean Beach seawall, and Lee emphasized that no evacuations are expected to be ordered for San Francisco. Extra police, he says, are in the Ocean Beach area to manage any trouble, should it arise.
Lee is expected to give another update on status of San Francisco response to Tsunami Warning at 12 noon today.
Buoys are set up throughout the Pacific Ocean to monitor events like this, a National Weather Service official said. Information on the tsunami’s size will be changing throughout the morning as the tsunami continues to cross the buoys and more information is gathered.
The tsunami warning was issued for coastal areas of California and Oregon, from Point Concepcion in California to the border of Oregon and Washington, according to the National Weather Service.
The tsunami watch, issued shortly after midnight, was upgraded to a warning at around 12:45 a.m. and is expected to last through the morning, forecaster Will Pi said.
Warnings are issued for areas within three hour tsunami-travel time following earthquakes of 7.5-magnitude or higher.
A tsunami warning indicates that a tsunami is imminent and those areas should be prepared for flooding, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
At of 10:53 AM, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom released the following statement:
“I send my heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan, especially those families that have experienced loss since the devastating earthquake and tsunami occurred. As a member of the California Emergency Council, I continue to monitor the situation closely and assure all Californians that we are prepared should our state face any disaster.”
Certainly no new news, but it’s been so long since I’ve had a statement from him to use, I could not resist.
You can see a map of the anticipated travel times of the wave here. And, from 2009, here’s San Francisco’s Tsunami Inundation Map. Compiled by the California Emergency Management Agency and the California Geological Survey, it predicts “the maximum considered tsunami runup from a number of extreme, yet realistic, tsunami sources.”
As the invaluable Emergency in SF twitter feed reminds us “don’t approach coast & listen to your local emergency officials for instructions.”
Bay City News contributed to this report