Saturday, March 12, 2011

TSUNAMI: fascinating, educational, gripping

Yesterday began when my sister in law in Kentucky called to check on us at 5:45 A.M.  She had seen news reports about California under a tsunami warning.  She was so upset she didn't even think about the time difference.  She also called her husband, my brother, who was in L.A. on business and her son who is lives in Davis, CA.  Now I could understand checking on my brother and on Marty and me.  We are on the coast.  But her son. . . he lives at least 60 miles inland.  

The earthquake that hit Japan was thousands of miles away. The waves began to travel at 500 miles an hour. At sea you don't know there are huge waves under you.  The only thing to stop the waves going across the ocean is land.  And North America, after a few Pacific Islands, is the block to the waves. The first wave hit San Francisco Bay around 8:10 A.M. I watched live TV feed as the tide was reversed, low tide was coming in, not flowing out.  Areas that should have been quiet pools of water had a rushing current.  It was fascinating and scary at the same time.

And that is when my education began. I learned San Francisco Bay has the type topography to protect it somewhat from tsunamis.  A narrow entrance, deeper water, decrease the size of the waves.  Bays such as Monterey Bay are wide open, and allow larger waves in.

I thought during a tsunami the ocean pulled back and then came roaring back in as a huge wall of water. And then it would be all over. No.  It does pull back, and then it comes back in at maybe 40 or 50 miles an hour.  It also does that every 15 to 20 minutes for the next 12 hours or so.  Just because the first wave is small doesn't mean the next waves will be.  The size can build or decrease.  Even the small 3 and 4 foot waves do huge damage. They are moving so fast that boats are flipped, docks are ripped apart.  When the water recedes the boats ground and tilt over.  The water comes back in and floods the boats before they can become upright.  Then they sink, or rip loose and crash into other boats. 

Santa Cruz is on the Monterey Bay and had millions of dollars of damage.  Crescent City to the north had lots of damage also, and is just starting to recover from a tsunami that happened a couple of years ago.  Even as bad as the damage was, there were few lives lost on the West Coast.  Click here and here to see pictures, video, and text about yesterday's tsunami.

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