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Tsunami: In Crescent City, worries about ‘angry’ ocean

March 11, 2011 |  4:15 pm

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Several Crescent City residents said they spent Friday watching and waiting -- hoping the water wouldn't rise higher. They said they were prepared for tsunamis and understood the dangers that such giant waves could pose.

Ruth Campbell, 76, recalled watching massive waves sweep over the town in 1964 after an earthquake hit Alaska. At the time, she was working as a maid at Sea Side Hospital, which sits on a cliff above the coast.

Downtown Crescent City, she said, is at sea level. Two entire streets were wiped out in the 1964 tsunami and "the city's never looked the same," Campbell said.

"It was the scariest thing I ever saw," she said. "I wouldn't even think about going down there now -- it's too dangerous."

Campbell, who now lives about three miles from the coast, said that roads into town were closed Friday afternoon. Like other residents, she followed radio reports closely throughout the day.

"We could hear the ocean howling. You could hear how angry it was," said Karen Barkhurst, who lives several miles north of Crescent City. "We stayed up all night and we were ready to evacuate."

Barkhurst said she and her family decided to stay home because they were outside the evacuation zone.

Another resident, Anthony Barron, said he knew about the dangers of tsunamis when he moved to Crescent City 11 years ago. He said he'd seen photographs of the damage in 1964, and that he was in the city during a smaller tsunami several years ago.

Like the others, he heard the tsunami siren go off early Friday and watched news reports closely throughout the day. He said a shelter had been set up at Del Norte High School, which is near his house.

Barron said the evacuation had run smoothly. Signs throughout town indicate which areas are in evacuation zones, and most residents are familiar with the procedure.

"They have practice runs where they sound the siren," Barron said. "We've all heard it before, and we all know what to do."

Campbell, however, said she was dismayed to hear that a group had ventured into the evacuation area to try to take photographs. One man remains missing.

"You don't do that," she said. "The waves will swoosh you right away."

RELATED:

Coast Guard seeking man swept out to sea

Scenes from the tsunami in Japan

1964 video of deadly tidal wave washing into Crescent City

-- Sam Allen

Photo: Fishing boats crash into one another in the boat basin in Crescent City, Calif. Credit: Jeff Barnard / Associated Press

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