By Brynn Hooton-Kaufman, Phycology Lab
I went to bed last night with plans to wake up and go snorkeling in Stillwater Cove at 8 am this morning. You might say those plans changed a bit when I got a phone call from my brother at 1:45 am. Well, actually it was five phone calls, because it took me that long to shake off the cobwebs of sleep and realize he wasn’t pocket dialing me. My thoughtful brother was up watching television, and had been alerted by the news to the disaster that had taken place in Japan. He called to let me know that a tsunami was headed toward the west coast with an arrival time of approximately 7:30 am, and he was concerned since we are residents of Monterey. Thankfully, we live high on one of the marine terraces in New Monterey, and I assured him that we would be safe from any floodwaters, and headed back to bed.
I immediately flipped on the television when I woke up this morning at 6, and started catching up on the news. The dramatic videos from Japan were chilling, and showed the ocean washing over agricultural land, pouring through city streets, and creating whirlpools that entrapped boats. The effects of the tsunami on Hawaii thankfully looked much milder, and the news didn’t report major damage from the flooding they experienced. As for our tsunami forecast, the news crews were predicting waves of a few feet high to hit around 7:45. I called my snorkeling buddy, updated her on the current events since she hadn’t seen the news, and we both decided that calling off the trip to Stillwater was a good idea.
I continued to watch the news, and when 7:45 rolled around, I was a little surprised not to see any changes on the beaches in the live-feed video. I even started to wonder if canceling the trip to collect seaweeds had been a mistake. But then I reminded myself, better safe than sorry. I don’t want to be the student with poor judgement who thought it was more important to collect materials for an exam than to heed tsunami warnings, and get swept out to sea. Besides, I reminded myself, tsunamis aren’t over in a blink of an eye; they can continue to have an impact for hours.
And it turns out that’s exactly what happened. Pretty soon on the news, boats and docks were getting ripped from their moorings in Santa Cruz harbor, and were barreling into anything in their way. MLML grad student Sara Hutto was high and dry, far from the dangers of the surge, but managed to catch these great photos:
Debris getting swept out of Santa Cruz Harbor (photo: S. Hutto)
As you can see, the current is moving quickly, and taking pieces of the harbor with it. The tsunami was really interesting to watch. It didn’t just move in once as a big surge, then drain back out, but instead it did this multiple times. It was kind of like watching a dramatic tide cycle, all happening in twenty minutes or so, and then starting all over again. (more…)