'King tides on steroids': Tsunami advisory brings strong waves, damage to parts of Bay Area

ByCornell Barnard and Ryan Curry via KGO logo
Sunday, January 16, 2022
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Sunday's tsunami advisory got the attention of thousands in the Bay Area and left some neighbors running for safety.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A tsunami advisory is in effect for the west coast including the Bay Area after a tsunami hit Tonga's largest island on Saturday, reportedly sending waves flooding into the capital after an underwater volcano in the South Pacific exploded in a violent eruption.

As of 9:04 p.m., the advisory has been canceled for the San Francisco Bay Area coastline, as well as the Monterey Bay Santa Cruz, according to the National Weather Service. The threat still remains in effect for Del Norte County and parts of Santa Barbara County.

East Bay

Berkeley police issued a mandatory evacuation for people living in the Marina as two to three feet waves were expected around 7:30a.m. About 113 people were evacuated, police say. But around 3:30 p.m., Alameda County Sheriff's office has lifted the evacuation order for boats and docks, but reminds people the advisory is still in effect,

San Francisco

The San Francisco Fire Department advised people to stay away from Ocean Beach.

"Revaluate your plans if you're going into the water or near our coastline in San Francisco for today," said SFFD Lt. Jonathan Baxter.

Many people still flocked to the beach, cameras ready to capture any big waves.

"The waves definitely look bigger, but I was kind of hoping for bigger waves," said Jungah Lee from San Francisco.

"I don't get this excitement everyday.. wanted to see it for myself," said Chuck Wagner.

The tsunami advisory forced the closure of Baker Beach and folks on Fort Baker Fishing Pier were told about the possible danger by rangers.

U.S. Coast Guard cutters were patrolling the shoreline most of the day. It was a day, many never saw coming.

"I will take tsunami alerts more seriously now," said Hatlestad.

There were no reports of injuries.

North Bay

Sunday's tsunami advisory got the attention of thousands in the Bay Area and left some neighbors running for safety after a surge of water poured into one waterfront community.

It was the scary moment, many neighbors won't soon forget when tsunami waves arrived in Tiburon ripping the boat dock off the front of Halee Hatlestad's home, casting two boats and the dock adrift into nearby Richardson Bay.

"The water came in, took the dock off and started pulling the edge of our balconies off, I ran inside grabbed my daughter and packed my car," said Hatlestad.

For several hours, the tsunami surge returned in cycles, strong enough to send the rogue runaway dock crashing into support beams at the apartment complex.

"The dock was picking up momentum as it was heading towards the building, it was scary," said Bronia Hill.

"Seeing these waves rolling in, I was thinking king tides but on steroids for lack of a better expression," said Chase Hill.

Santa Cruz/Capitola

Santa Cruz residents remained on high alert Saturday, while a Tsunami alert threatened the shoreline.

"We stayed about 200-feet up," said resident Kristy Hughes. "At first we couldn't see anything but then the harbor and the water rose very high. You can really see it. Police and firemen were everywhere."

VIDEO: Santa Cruz residents take precautions under tsunami threat

Coast guard crews patrolled the beaches all day Saturday to monitor the water level. In the morning, a series of waves came and brought debris on the shores. Plus, residents say water levels in the harbor rose to concerning levels.

"At first I didn't see anything," said Edward Martinez, who was monitoring the levels. "We got near the water and that is where you could really see it. The flume went away, but the water kept going up and up."

It didn't deter people from going near the beach. Many surfers were spotted in the water, and others still spent the day near the water. Residents like Hughes waited till it was safe.

"We didn't any sirens at first," she said. "Around 11 that's when we heard all the sirens and we waited for it to stop."

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk tweeted it is also closed, out of abundance of caution but is scheduled to reopen on Sunday.

In Capitola, Jacob Beau McLelan was out testing his new iPhone this morning when he came across this sight in Capitola Village. He said he'll have to plan another day to hit the waves and surf.

Satellite imagery shows the volcanic eruption and the massive ash cloud and shockwaves spreading from the eruption.

RELATED: New tsunami hazard maps show Bay Area regions most at-risk if 'worst-case scenario' were to occur

Tsunami advisories were also issued as far away as New Zealand's North Island.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves of 2.7-feet high on Tonga's largest island.

No word yet on any injuries.

RELATED: What to do if there's a tsunami watch or warning