Japan earthquake, California tsunami: Crescent City comes to grips with devastation — again - latimes.com
Crescent City comes to grips with tsunami's devastation
The tsunami that started with Japan's 8.9 quake reaches across the Pacific to bring disaster to a working harbor.
Half-sunken boats, docks and debris lie tangled Saturday in Crescent City after Friday's tsunami in Northern California.
Los Angeles Times March 13, 2011
Reporting from Crescent City, Calif.
The day after a tsunami destroyed this beleaguered city's fishing harbor and battered the economy along with it, the sky here on the wild Northern California coast struggled to brighten. Rain pelted the debris-strewn harbor. Winds whipped through the redwoods.
And still the cars came, headlights glowing, passengers craning to see boats upended like toys. Most of the region's emergency staff had been working nonstop since the giant waves were first predicted, and the city was hard-pressed to stop a steady parade of gawkers.
Twenty-four hours earlier, in the wake of Japan's
magnitude 8.9 earthquake, Crescent City had largely emptied, anticipating disaster. On Saturday morning, as the crushing waves subsided, residents and officials took stock.
Photos: Tsunami surge damages Crescent City harbor
"We're facing not only physical but financial disaster," harbormaster Richard Young told residents and elected officials during an early briefing. "Our business activity came to a screeching halt yesterday, and that affects the entire community."
Although harbors up and down the coast were damaged in the tsunami, officials say only one person died in California as a direct result, a young man taking pictures of the surging waves at the mouth of the Klamath River. On Saturday morning, Del Norte County Sheriff Cmdr. Bill Steven identified the dead man as Dustin Weber, 25, believed to be from Bend, Ore.
But the city struggled with conflicting emotions Saturday: relief that the damage wasn't greater, survivor's guilt ("Those poor people in Japan!" was a common refrain), pride that disaster planning had paid off and fear of the economic hit and looming reconstruction.
"Despite all we did to mitigate the problems," Young told his somber audience at the county administrative offices, "the harbor is destroyed."
Volunteers had knocked on doors for hours in advance of the tsunami, evacuating people on boats and in houses in the city's tsunami zone. Three shelters were activated. A child-care center for volunteers opened its doors at 2 a.m. Friday. An hour or so later, there was a shelter for animals.
The majority of the harbor's fishing boats had sailed to safety, warned that waves could have reached heights rivaling the 1964 tsunami, which killed 11, destroyed the harbor and leveled a large swath of downtown. On Saturday morning, the remaining vessels listed in the churning harbor. At least eight had sunk. A sheen of oil coated the water.