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California tsunami damage expected to top $50 million

The wall of water, triggered by Japan's massive earthquake, destroyed docks, boats and harbor equipment up and down the coast. Strong currents continue in Crescent City and Santa Monica Bay.

March 13, 2011|By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
  • A group of men try to save a boat that tipped over from a tsunami surge in Santa Cruz harbor. The port director there said 17 ships were sunk and about 50 others were damaged.
A group of men try to save a boat that tipped over from a tsunami surge in Santa… (Kim White, Getty Images )

The earthquake-triggered tsunami that thrashed California's coast Friday morning, killing one person, caused at least $50 million in damage, experts said Saturday.

Lori Dengler, a geology professor and director of the Humboldt Earthquake Education Center at Humboldt State, said the damage estimates were preliminary — and were likely to rise.

"It's going to go up," Dengler said. "How far up, I'm not going to predict. This is an expensive event for California."

Officials at harbors up and down the coastline spent Saturday assessing damage from Friday's ocean surge.

The two ports that were hit hardest were Crescent City and Santa Cruz.

The damage in Santa Cruz is estimated at $17 million, according to Port Director Lisa Ekers. She told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that 17 ships were sunk and up to 50 others were damaged.

In Santa Barbara, fierce waves turned the harbor into a tidal pool, sweeping away a barge that was used for the city's commercial fishing operation and nearly destroying a 200-ton crane barge that became unmoored in the tumult.

"The whole harbor entrance was kind of chaotic for about five hours," said Santa Barbara Patrol Officer Ryan Kelly. He said several boats were damaged when they collided with barges or other vessels.

In Ventura, a city sailing dock broke off and at least one boat was lost at sea, authorities said.

In Morro Bay, a dock came loose in the waves, according to Harbor Patrol Officer Cale Moore. He said the waves continued Saturday.

The National Weather Service cancelled its tsunami warning Saturday morning but warned that strong currents remain in Crescent City and in Santa Monica Bay.

On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, San Mateo and Santa Cruz.

Times staff writer Maria La Ganga in Crescent City contributed to this report.

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