While the West Coast of North America received a relatively light slap compared to the devastation in Japan following that nation's worst-ever recorded earthquake and tsunami, California officials reported an estimated $50 million in damages, centered in two Northern California counties -- Del Norte and Santa Cruz. The state's string of coastal electric generation plants, except for the northern most at Humboldt Bay, reported no impact.
"The tsunami alert that was in effect for most of last Friday had a very minor impact," a Southern California Edison Co. spokesperson told NGI Sunday.
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday declared emergencies in four counties: Humboldt, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Del Norte.
"In the case of the advisory, we deployed personnel to monitor the coastline even when we anticipated relatively low levels of a surge in Southern California," the spokesman said.
Statewide reports attributed one death to the coastal surge and damage mostly at Santa Cruz, about 50 miles south of San Francisco, and Crescent City, which has experienced 34 or 35 tsunamis in the past 78 years, according to a geology professor tracking such data at Humboldt State University. Crescent City's harbormaster reported that several boats sank and many other were damaged by the tsunami.
Energy companies generally were targeted with warnings Friday, and operations for the most part went on without interruption (see Daily GPI, March 14). The major ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in Southern California halted some cargo operations ahead of a tsunami surge that turned out to be relatively small.
A spokesperson for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. told NGI Sunday that there were no problems with its generation plants except for a precautionary shutoff of its 163 MW natural gas-fired Humboldt Bay plant for 2-1/2 hours early Friday when the tsunami alert first took effect along the West Coast.
California has 19 major coastal electric generating plants, including two major nuclear generating sites, which account for about 40% of the state's electricity needs.
To the south, boats and docks were destroyed in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Morro Bay harbors. The worst action was along the south-facing coast at Santa Barbara where a 200-ton crane barge became unmoored and another barge used for the city's commercial fishing was swept away as fierce waves wreaked havoc for nearly five hours.
The National Weather Service canceled the tsunami warning Saturday morning, but there was a continuing warning of "strong currents" in Crescent City and Santa Monica Bay.
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