Local Beaches Given "All Clear" After Tsunami Advisory

LOS ANGELES -- Lifeguards have given the "all clear" for Los Angeles beaches after a massive earthquake in the South Pacific near American Samoa triggered a tsunami advisory along the California coast.

Los Angeles County lifeguard Capt. Terry Harvey said Wednesday morning that crews found no dangerous currents or other hazards during their night patrols.

The warning for strong currents and dangerous waves prompted L.A. County officials to clear area beaches around 8 p.m. Tuesday.

More than two hours later, the U.S. Coast Guard in the Los Angeles area at four on-shore locations -- Morro Bay, Channel Islands Harbor, Newport Harbor and the Port of Los Angeles -- reported no noticeable marine conditions, surges or waves.

Redondo Beach also reported no damage.

"Fortunately, the main threat period passed without any noticeable damage in Redondo Beach," Mayor Mike Gin said in a statement.

A tsunami advisory means that a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves dangerous to persons in or very near the water is imminent or expected.

Significant, widespread inundation was not expected for local beaches.

Currents were feared to be hazardous to swimmers, boats, and coastal structures.

National Weather Service forecasters said they believed rising ocean levels would be felt mostly along the Central Coast, roughly from Monterey Bay south to Point Conception in Santa Barbara County.

According to the NWS, tides would rise 1 to 2 feet in areas such as San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay and Cayucos.

The arrival time in Santa Barbara was expected at 9:03 p.m. Tuesday.

The arrival time in Santa Monica was expected at 9:11 p.m., and 9:15 p.m. for the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach.

Los Angeles Port Police evacuated all beach goers from Cabrillo Beach in the San Pedro area by 7 p.m. The evacuation was expected to last until Wednesday morning.

Additionally, no one was allowed on or near the breakwater.

Port police also informed terminal operators about the advisory, but operators were not told to shut down operations.

At King Harbor in Redondo Beach, officials told boat dwellers in the marina to head for higher ground after 8 p.m. and to make sure nothing was loose on their boats.

In Seal Beach, where beaches normally close at 10 p.m., officials closed an hour early as a precaution. Officials in Huntington Beach said they had no plans to close beaches, but closely monitored the situation.

The quake, with a magnitude between 8.0 and 8.3, struck around dawn in the South Pacific between Samoa and American Samoa.

The quake triggered towering tsunami waves that swept ashore on Samoa and American Samoa early Tuesday, flattening villages, killing at least 99 people and leaving dozens of workers missing at devastated National Park Service facilities.

Cars and people were swept out to sea by the fast-churning water as survivors fled to higher ground, where they remained huddled hours after the quake struck early Tuesday. Signs of devastation were everywhere, with a giant boat washed ashore lying on the edge of a highway and floodwaters swallowing up cars and homes.

"I don't think anybody is going to be spared in this disaster," said acting American Samoa Gov. Faoa A. Sunia.

Sunia declared a state of emergency in American Samoa, describing "immense and widespread damage to individual, public and commercial buildings in coastal areas" along with death and injury.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who was in Honolulu for a conference, told reporters that more victims could be found when rescuers reach areas that are inaccessible by roads. Tulafono said a member of his extended family was among the dead.

Residents in both Samoa and American Samoa reported being shaken awake by the quake, which lasted two to three minutes and was centered about 20 miles (32 kilometers) below the ocean floor. It was followed by at least three large aftershocks of at least 5.6 magnitude.

New Zealander Graeme Ansell said the beach village of Sau Sau Beach Fale was leveled.

"It was very quick. The whole village has been wiped out," Ansell told New Zealand's National Radio from a hill near Samoa's capital, Apia. "There's not a building standing. We've all clambered up hills, and one of our party has a broken leg. There will be people in a great lot of need 'round here."

The Samoan capital was virtually deserted with schools and businesses closed.

Local media said they had reports of landslides in the Solosolo region of the main Samoan island of Upolu and damage to plantations in the countryside outside Apia.

Rescue workers found a scene of destruction and debris with cars overturned or stuck in mud, and rockslides hit some roads. Several students were seen ransacking a convenience store.

Eni Faleomavaega, who represents American Samoa as a non-voting delegate in the U.S. House, said he had talked to people by telephone who said that Pago Pago -- just a few feet above sea level -- was flattened. Several hundred people's homes were destroyed, but getting more concrete information has been difficult, he said.

In Washington, President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration, making federal funds available to victims in American Samoa.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. John Titchen said a C-130 was being dispatched Wednesday to deliver aid to American Somoa, assess damage and take the governor back home.

One of the runways at Pago Pago International Airport was being cleared of debris for emergency use, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said in Los Angeles.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it was deploying teams to American Samoa to provide support and assess damage.

The dominant industry in American Samoa -- tuna canneries -- was also affected. Chicken of the Sea's tuna packing plant in American Samoa was forced to close although the facility wasn't damaged, the San Diego-based company said.

Japan's Meteorological Agency also issued a tsunami warning all along that country's eastern coast.

While the earthquake and tsunami were big, they were not on the same scale of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, said Brian Atwater of the U.S. Geological Survey in Seattle. That tsunami killed more than 230,000 in a dozen countries across Asia.

The 2004 quake was at least 10 times stronger than the measurements being reported for Tuesday's quake, Atwater said.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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