Tsunami causes evacuations, damage at Ore. coast

Tsunami causes evacuations, damage at Ore. coast

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by Frank Mungeam

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

kgw.com

Posted on March 11, 2011 at 1:14 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 14 at 3:02 PM

NEWPORT -- Residents of Oregon Coast towns returned to their homes midday Friday following low-elevation evacuations forced by the threat of tsunami waves from Japan's powerful earthquake.

The entire Oregon and California coasts had been under a Tsunami Warning since early Friday. The warning was lifted in the early afternoon but a Tsunami Advisory continued until late in the day.

Most areas of the coast escaped damage. However, a marina in Brookings suffered extensive damage. Brookings was one of the first areas on the West Coast hit by by the tsunami wave from Japan. PHOTOS: West Coast tsunami damage

Two couples were swept into the sea by surges at about the same time near the mouth of the Pistol River in Gold Beach. Neither couple was aware of the warning. Both couples were OK. More: Two couples caught by surge

In Depoe Bay, docks were also damaged as waters surged through the narrow inlet into the famously tiny bay. One fisherman shared video with KGW showing how his boat was buffeted by the surging waters. Exclusive Video: Depoe Bay fisherman's boat hammered.

Tsunami reaches Oregon

The first tsunami wave hit the Oregon and Washington coasts at about 7:30 a.m., with surge levels primarily limited to one-and-a-half to two feet. Brookings, Oregon and Crescent City, California, recorded the biggest waves with peak surges of six-plus feet.

Five U.S. Coast Guard helicopters that flew over the coastline in anticipation of any emergencies saw little damage but had a bird's-eye view of residents evacuating coastal towns, said Lt. Jason Reeder. Coast Guard pilots were impressed by the orderly evacuation, Reader said.

Early morning traffic jam

Further north, locals told KGW that early-morning traffic along Hwy 26 east of Seaside resembled summer weekend levels as residents heeded warning to retreat from low-lying areas by 7 a.m.

More: Early-morning traffic jam at coast

Geophysicist Gerard Fryer, at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu, saids high water reached Port Orford, Ore., around 7:30 a.m. PST Friday.

In LaPush, Wash., the surge was recorded at two feet, in Charleston, Ore., 1.5 feet and in Garibaldi, a half foot, according to the National Weather Service.

VIEW: Oregon Coast Live Cams

Officials along the coast activated warning sirens hours earlier to alert people to leave low-lying areas.

The National Weather Service said some of the biggest waves, in excess of six feet, hit near Crescent City on the northern California coast.

In Alaska, the tsunami caused a wave just over 5 feet at Shemya in the Aleutian Islands 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Sirens, reverse 911 alert coastal residents

Tsunami sirens blared all along the Oregon Coast Friday morning and evacuations started as early as 4 a.m. 

Coast residents living within half a mile of the sea were urged to leave low-lying areas by 6 a.m.

Authorities used reverse 9-1-1 calling system and sirens, which blared again at 6 a.m. in some communities, to literally awaken any residents who somehow did not get word of the Japan quake eight hours earlier.

At 5 a.m., the rest area on U.S. 26 in the Coast Range was full, with motorists parking on the shoulder, said Oregon State Police. They urged motorists to drive slowly in congested areas. ODOT reported heavy traffic on U.S. 101 in Florence.

Karma Smith, of Camp 18 restaurant on U.S. 26, reported about 6:20 a.m. that her parking lot was full, cars were parked along the shoulder and cars were crawling eastbound to Portland.

The tsunami hit Hawaii earlier with a 5.7 foot reading at Maui, 3.4 at Hilo, 2.5 at Kauai and 2.2 at Oahu.

Seaside, Warrenton-Hammond, Lincoln County, Nestucca and Neah-Kah-Nie closed schools Friday due to the warning. Ocean Beach on the Long Beach Peninsula also closed. More: Latest Closures

Related: 9.0 quake, tsunami strike Japan

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