A Japanese weather satellite captured the eruption of an undersea volcano
A Japanese weather satellite captured the eruption of an undersea volcano near the South Pacific nation of Tonga on Jan. 15. (Japan Meteorology Agency)


Tsunami advisory issued for California coast; beaches closed, waves expected

A tsunami advisory was in effect for the California coast Saturday morning due to a volcano erupting near the Pacific nation of Tonga.

Several beaches and marinas from Orange County to the Bay Area were temporarily closed as a precaution because of higher than normal waves, officials said. Officials urged people to stay out of the water and away from the shore.

Kristan Lund, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Oxnard, distinguished the advisory issued Saturday from a more severe “warning,” where residents are urged to evacuate to higher ground immediately.

“We are advising people to stay out of the water and off the beaches,” she said.

She said the advisory was “fairly uncommon” because it was due to a volcanic eruption and not an underwater earthquake, and because it extended to the entire West Coast. The entire coast was at risk, she said, including portions of islands that face away from the volcano, such as Avalon Harbor.

The water surge can “bend around the island and it can also bounce off the shores,” she said. As of 8:30 a.m., Port San Luis Harbor in San Luis Obispo County was registering a surge of just over one foot, she said.

The National Weather Service said the tsunami activity was supposed to hit Monterey around 7:30 a.m. and San Francisco around 8:10 a.m. Beaches in Southern California were supposed to see impacts beginning around 7:50 a.m. Many beaches and piers were close. Berkeley closed its marina and urged people to seek higher ground.

“If you are located in this coastal area,” NWS said, “move off the beach and out of harbors and marinas. Do not go to the coast to watch the tsunami. Be alert to instructions from your local emergency officials.”

Officials said some coastal areas could see wave heights of 1 to 2 feet. “Main impacts expect to be strong rip currents, coastal flooding, and inundation of low lying areas is possible. Move to higher ground,” NWS said.

The tsunami was caused by the eruption of an undersea volcano Saturday. It brought tsunami alerts from large swaths of the Pacific including Hawaii and the West Coast.

In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported waves slamming ashore from a foot in Nawiliwili, Kauai, in Hawaii, to 2.7 feet in Hanalei. “We are relieved that there is no reported damage and only minor flooding throughout the islands,” the center said, describing the situation in Hawaii.

On Tonga, video posted to social media showed large waves washing ashore in coastal areas, swirling around homes and buildings.

A #Tsunami Advisory means: a dangerous wave is on the way. Strong and unusual currents are expected along the coast, and in bays, marinas, and harbors. Move to high ground and away from the shore. More at https://t.co/npoUHxEZLS. pic.twitter.com/MCLDdN9qPp— NWS Tsunami Alerts (@NWS_NTWC) January 15, 2022

In Hawaii, Alaska and along the U.S. Pacific coast, residents were asked to move away from the coastline to higher ground and pay attention to specific instructions from their local emergency management officials, said Dave Snider, tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.

“We don’t issue an advisory for this length of coastline as we’ve done — I’m not sure when the last time was — but it really isn’t an everyday experience,” he said. “I hope that elevates the importance and severity for our citizens.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.