No damage this time around, but tsunami risk is real

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Los_Angeles_Quads_Inundation_800We got off easy this time. There are no reports of damage or flooding from a tsunami that rolled into Southern California this morning following a huge, magnitude 8.3 earthquake in Chile.

The tsunami hit San Diego at about 4:45 this morning, moving up to Orange and L.A. counties a few minutes later. It was expected to travel as far north as San Louis Obispo County.

L.A. County spokesman David Sommers was in Marina del Rey this morning when the tsunami just before 5 a.m. The swell pushed up sea levels by less than a foot, but he says it was still an impressive thing to see.

“Even though we didn’t see waves that you would normally associate with a tsunami, we did see a tidal action,” Sommers said. “We saw a big influx of water and a big push of water back outward into the ocean, and with that comes a huge volume of energy under water.”

L.A.’s now-earthquake czar Lucy Jones and other scientists and emergency officials put out a report two years ago saying that more than 750,000 people in Southern California would have to evacuate in a few hours if a large tsunami were to approach the coast.

6a00d8341c630a53ef014e86a7dec2970d-800wiThe report said tsunami waves of 3 to 10 feet triggered by massive Pacific Rim earthquakes could inundate parts of Long Beach, Huntington Harbor and Newport Harbor.

Spurred in part by that part, state officials announced last year that would start to draw tsunami flood maps for areas of the state that are most at risk.

Those include Santa Cruz and Crescent City, which suffered major damage a few years in a tsunami generated by an even stronger earthquake off the Chile coast than the one that hit yesterday. A tsunami in 1964 resulting from an earthquake in Alaska killed 11 people in Crescent City. And a tsunami that devastated Japan after the huge earthquake there in 2011 was felt up and down the California coast, sweeping one person out to sea.