The Seal Beach Pier and beaches were closed this morning after authorities issued a tsunami alert for Seal Beach following last night's 8.9 quake that devastated parts of Japan.
By 9 a.m. about 400 people gathered at the base of the Seal Beach Pier to watch for the tsunami, according to an O.C. Fire Authority estimate. On the whole, the atmosphere of the crowd was one of amused expectation and disappointment in the small waves. However, some people were genuinely frightened by the possibility of a tsunami hitting the coast, while several surfers were frustrated with the closure.
“This is kind of scary. They are expecting a big wave, but they are letting everyone stand so close,” said Seal Beach resident Diana Goldman. “How do they know it’s not going to blow in here as quickly as it did there?”
Surfer J.A. Cragg was kicked off the beach early this morning, and he waited for hours to get back in the water.
“This is the first time I have ever seen the beach evacuated—I’ve lived here since 1977,” Cragg said. “This is nothing. They waves are so small, I might not even go out now.”
Long Beach resident Jeff Hanson came down to the pier for a glimpse at the tsunami.
“It would have been nice to see something, but I wasn’t really expecting much,” he said.
While the surf was minimal, the crowd of people watching it surged throughout the morning.
The Orange County Fire Authority was on hand along with police and lifeguard officials to keep an eye on the crowd and to enforce the beach closure.
“We are here to be in the public eye,” said Bob Dowis, fire authority engineer. “It’s such a significant event in Japan. I don’t think the world has ever seen anything like this. No one knows what to expect. They say we aren’t to expect much here, but seeing the video footage from Japan, you realize they didn’t expect it either.”
Rather than clearing the beach, the news drew onlookers and news crews from local stations and CNN. By 7:20 a.m., the water level did not appear to have risen locally. Authorities expect the water level to peak at about 8:30 a.m. As a precaution, the Navy ship USS Dubuque docked at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station exited Anaheim Bay.
“It’s just a precaution,” said Sgt. Steve Bowles, Seal Beach Police Department spokesman. “Right now we have a low tide, so water level is less of a concern.”
Seal Beach lifeguards removed much of their equipment from water level and patrolled the sand, escorting anyone on the beach to higher ground.
The warning caused excitement but little concern among residents who came down to the water for a look.
“It’s a complete waste of time,” said Seal Beach resident Kevin Davis. “There is nothing happening.”
Brandon Bennington was disappointed to have his Los Alamitos High School surf class canceled because of the closure.
“I am not worried,” he said. “There was a tsunami warning a couple years ago, and nothing happened. I don’t think the water would even make it up that ramp,” he said, pointing to the beach parking lot ramp.
“My friend called me in a total panic this morning because she heard there was a tsunami warning,” said Seal Beach resident Rene Zavala. “But it’s not unusual. I just came down here to see if there is anything larger than life."
Seal Beach police have released a tsunami hotline number, 714-628-7085.