Unusual tidal activity reported on two La Jolla beaches

The spectre of large tsunami waves hitting Southern California seemed to be a washout, but lifeguards in San Diego said they spotted unusual tidal activities at two La Jolla beaches.

“It wasn’t dangerous, but the water went out lower than an especially low tide and came back in,” said San Diego lifeguard Lt. John Everhart. “That was definitely a tsunami event.”

Everhart said the tidal surge was seen around the La Jolla reef and Birdrock area. The guard who witnessed it said the tide flowed out to a minus 2-foot depth and returned to a 4-foot tide level.

“Normally what would take five hours took 10 to 15 minutes,” Everhart said.

No injuries or property damage was reported. Everhart said crowds came to the beach “against our advice” and also watched the coastlines from a safe distance.

“We’ll keep our eyes open until the advisory is lifted,” Everhart said.

Further north, in Oceanside, a police volunteer said “we could see the currents come in the mouth of Oceanside Harbor, in and out two or three times, since a little after noon.” Ron Graham said “there was no damage to boats. It was pretty tame here.”

Police in San Diego said no tsunami effects were seen in San Diego Bay. Although four Navy ships near Honolulu put out to sea, port officials in San Diego reported no naval movements there.

The tsunami was officially measured at 1.4 feet in San Diego, 1.3 feet at Los Angeles harbor, 2.2 feet at Santa Monica and 1.4 feet at Santa Barbara. The surge at Santa Monica was the largest measured in California, according to the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.

Those experts had predicted that the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile could generate two-foot waves in San Diego, and as much as 40 inches high at Malibu and Santa Monica.

Although nothing hit at that time, the Warning Center warned that tsunami surges could strike up to two hours after the first arrival time. Tsunami experts used a network of buoys along the Central American coasts Saturday, and warned that the strongest surges may come two hours after the first waves are detected.

Local undersea conditions could have caused the maximum tsunami to vary in height between 24-40 inches at various locations along the Southern California coast, according to U.S. government oceanographers.

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile at 10:24 p.m. Friday (California time) generated damaging waves in South and Central America, and has prompted evacuation orders on beachfront communities in the Hawaiian islands.

No evacuation orders have been issued in California, and lifeguards at south-facing Zuma Beach said they were not going to order people off the beach.

Further north, police in Long Beach, reporters in Malibu, and a crowd of tsunami fans on the Santa Monica Pier all reported that the predicted 12:25 p.m. arrival time came and went without any impact

“We’re on heightened awareness,” said a lifeguard supervisor at Zuma. Los Angeles County moved its fleet of Baywatch patrol boats out of marinas, and further offshore from their normal buoys at Surfrider and Zuma beaches, as a precaution.

The National Weather Service said the biggest impact on California’s coast was 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. Friday’s forecast, issued at 7:06 a.m., placed the highest predicted local waves for Santa Monica, where a 3.3 foot wave was said possible.