California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in several counties Friday after tsunami waves caused by the Japan earthquake inundated swaths of the U.S. coast, causing millions of dollars in damage and sweeping a number of people out to sea.
Four people were rescued from the water in Oregon, but one man who was taking photos in northern California was still missing Friday afternoon. Coast Guard helicopters searched for him near the mouth of the Klamath River in Del Norte County, Calif., after his two friends made it back to shore.
About 40 kilometres north, four people were swept off a beach north of Brookings, Ore. Two got out of the water on their own and the others were rescued by law enforcement and fire officials.
A man was found dead aboard a commercial vessel in Brookings, but sheriff's officials said it appeared to be from natural causes.
The large waves shook loose boats that weren't moved in time and tore apart wooden docks in at least two California harbours.
Brown's emergency proclamation said the water surge was causing "extreme peril" to people and property in the counties of Del Norte, Humbolt, San Mateo and Santa Cruz.
Two men watch the waves at San Francisco's Ocean Beach on Friday during tsunami warnings that came after a 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck Japan.Two men watch the waves at San Francisco's Ocean Beach on Friday during tsunami warnings that came after a 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck Japan. Noah Berger/Associated Press
"This is just devastating. I never thought I'd see this again," said Ted Scott, a retired mill worker who lived in Crescent City when a 1964 tsunami killed 17 people on the West Coast, including 11 in his town. "I watched the docks bust apart. It buckled like a graham cracker."
The waves didn't make it over a six-meter breakwall protecting the rest of the city, and no home damage was immediately reported.
Damage estimates in Crescent City were in the millions, and more boats and docks were hit in Santa Cruz on California's central coast. Surges are expected throughout the afternoon.