California Tsunami Activity Continues: See Images of Tsunami Aftermath
CALIFORNIA – Water levels continued to fluctuate along the California coast Sunday morning due to tsunami activity caused by an underwater volcanic eruption, the National Weather Service reported.
Abnormal water levels on Sunday are not expected to be as dramatic as Saturday, but lifeguards are, once again, on alert for water rescues caused by waves capable of producing strong currents. The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcano near the island nation of Tonga on Saturday, triggered tsunami activity across the Pacific Ocean that continued throughout the day on Sunday.
Dave Snider, tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center, said it was highly unusual for a volcanic eruption to affect an entire ocean basin, and the sight was both “humiliating and frightening”.
It was for Savannah Peterson, who watched in shock as the water rose several feet in minutes outside her beachfront home in Pacifica, California, just south of San Francisco.
“It went up so fast, and a few minutes later it was down. It was crazy to see it happen so fast,” she said Saturday. “I’ve never had water all the way to my front door, and today it happened.”
From San Diego to San Francisco, authorities closed beaches along the coast, but the lure of empty beaches and big waves was too much for some swimmers and surfers.
A surfer at Ocean Beach had to be rescued by helicopter after his surfboard broke in half about 200 yards from shore, and the San Francisco Fire Department rescued dozens of swimmers stuck in waters up to to the knees with powerful currents, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Tsunami waves damaged boats as far away as New Zealand and Santa Cruz, California, where a marina parking lot was also inundated by rising waters.
Overall, tsunami activity does not appear to have caused widespread damage in California. Snider said he expects the tsunami situation in the United States and elsewhere to continue to improve on Sunday.
Tsunami advisories were issued Saturday for Japan, Hawaii, Alaska and the U.S. Pacific Coast. The US Geological Survey estimated that the eruption caused the equivalent of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. Scientists said tsunamis generated by volcanoes rather than earthquakes are relatively rare.
Terrestrial imaging firm Planet Labs PBC had been monitoring the island for the past few days after a new volcanic vent began erupting in late December. Satellite images showed how the volcano had shaped the region, creating a growing island off the coast of Tonga.
“The area of the island appears to have expanded by nearly 45% due to ashfall,” Planet Labs said days before the latest activity.
Following Saturday’s eruption, residents of Hawaii, Alaska and along the U.S. Pacific Coast have been urged to move away from the coast to higher ground.
A tsunami wave of about four feet hit Tonga, flooding the nation’s capital. Ash from the eruption also rained down on the island nation, and a day later the extent of the damage remained unclear.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.