Like much of San Diego’s media, we joined the “Tsunami watch” down at the shore of Ocean Beach this morning. The horrible tragedy in Japan had generated enough energy under the Pacific Ocean that it was supposed to travel to the West Coast moving at the rate of 500 miles an hour, and hit San Diego’s coast around 8:40 a.m.
Authorities called a Tsunami Alert – an “advisory” – not the higher level of a “warning.” So, as per usual in our area, the media, private photographers, ordinary people and local residents rushed to the beaches and cliffs of Ocean Beach and Point Loma, in the hopes of seeing something of the Tsunami surge. And they did this ignoring the Tsunami directional warning signs installed by the City of San Diego last year.
Once at the beach, it was obvious that we were very lucky not to have a Tsunami wave coming as the fog was so thick that we couldn’t even see it even if it did come. It was so foggy at the beach, you couldn’t even see the end of the OB Pier, and at North Beach, you couldn’t even see South Beach.
We did speak with Sgt. Dave Rains of the Lifeguards, who said he and other guards thought there had been about a one foot “rise” at Dog Beach, and that they had heard there had been up to a three foot rise in Quivira Basin inside Mission Bay. They had started their patrol at 6 this morning with the “advisory” and were expecting up to a possible 2 and one half foot surge. Because it was just an advisory, they did not kick anybody off the beach, the pier or out of the water, Rains said.
Two police officers sat in their patrol car monitoring the situation as well. I spoke to them briefly to confirm that this was their duty. They told me they hadn’t seen anything nor had they heard any reports of any local effects from the Tsunami. In fact they said they were going to depart in a few moments.
Over in the North Beach parking lot, I spoke to two surfers who had just come out of the water. They’d been in surfing at Avalanche for about an hour and half. I asked them if they had felt anything, and they both said that they did feel a heavy current and more rip than usual in the ocean. Why, I asked, would you go in and surf knowing full well that there had been a Tsunami advisory out?
“It’s all been over-exaggerated by the media,” Greg Ataneruck, told me. Besides surfing, he goes to college and works at Chris’ Liquor. “I don’t buy into the fear factor,” he said. Hawaii didn’t get it, he said, as part of his reasoning, so OB wouldn’t have any effect. His buddy, Rob Innes, agreed.
By 10 this morning, most people and photogs had drifted away – unlike the fog -, disappointed in the lack of a visible effect from the ocean power that had been predicted. The Tsunami Advisory was for two hours, so around 10:45 a.m. even the cops and lifeguards turned to other things.
So, in the end, the news of the Tsunami Watch in Ocean Beach was the news itself. Other parts of the West Coast and Hawaii didn’t fare as well. And obviously, with the effects still being felt in Japan – as three nuclear reactors are in trouble and fires still rage in towns – we can turn our attention to their troubles and not have to worry or wonder about our own shore.