Chile quake triggers tsunami alert; surges could start in La Jolla

Earthquake-generated waves about two feet high may wash ashore at San Diego County beaches beginning at noon today, and bigger waves may follow that, the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said Saturday.

Waves larger than two feet will brush up California’s coast starting at the Mexican border at precisely noon, and arrive at La Jolla at 12:02 p.m.

Local undersea conditions will cause the tsunami to vary in height

between 24-40 inches at various locations along the Southern California coast, according to U.S. government oceanographers.

Tsunami experts used a network of buoys along the American coasts today, and warned that the strongest surges may come two hours after the first waves are detected. But the regular cycle of tides will be nearing a low ebb at San Diego when the waves are expected, perhaps sparing low-lying areas from inundation.

Buoys off the coast of Central America have led the Tsunami Center to

warn Californians that “potential tsunami wave heights to range from two to three feet across some coastal areas.”

“Peak wave heights will likely occur around two hours after the initial wave arrival,” the National Weather Service predicted.

“We’re advising people to stay off the sand and rocks in coastal

areas,” San Diego Lifeguard Lt. John Everhart said. ‘We’re anticipating a surge in the ocean of about two feet around 12 o’clock. We’re not expectingwide-spread flooding.’'

San Diego Harbor Police warned boaters to secure their vessels in San

Diego Bay and the Coast Guard has been broadcasting tsunami warnings over marine radio frequencies, a harbor police official said.

“We have two boats out, flagging anyone on the bay and telling them of

the National Weather Service advisory that they shouldn’t be out,” said San Diego Harbor Police Cpl. Daryl Mullins.

“We’re telling them to take it seriously and if they can, leave their

boats at this time.”

Mullins said there are about 10,000 boats tied up in San Diego Bay, but not many boaters were on the water today.

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile at 10:24 p.m. Friday (San

Diego time) generated damaging waves in South and Central America, and has prompted evacuation orders on beachfront communities in the Hawaiian islands.

Tide charts indicate that the normal, celestial ocean tide levels will

not be extremely high in San Diego County when the ocean levels are predicted to rise.

The high tide today was 6.4 feet above average sea level at 7:46 a.m.

The low tide is predicted to be a -1.3 level at 2:29 p.m., indicating that the tide will be ebbing and relatively low at the time that the earthquake- generated swells may arrive.

The National Weather Service said the biggest impact on California’s

coast is likely to be unusual currents in harbors or near breakwaters and rocks.

The tsunami center uses historical data and computer models to predict

tsunami behavior as anticipated swells come ashore. Today’s forecast, issued at 7:06 a.m., placed the highest predicted local waves in California for Santa Monica, where a 3.3 foot wave is possible.