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L.A. County fire officials expect waves from Chile quake to top at 3 feet; no warning to be issued

February 27, 2010 | 10:39 am
Despite the tsunami advisory issued for the California coast as a result of the 8.8 earthquake in Chile, Los Angeles County fire officials said they were not warning people to stay off beaches because they did not expect waves to rise more than 3 feet.

But National Weather Service meteorologists said harbors could see a little bit more turbulence.
“There’s just a heightened awareness right now,” said Ron Corpus, an ocean lifeguard specialist in Hermosa Beach. “We’re making sure engine bays are open, and staging equipment if we need to evacuate people if we have to.”
Corpus said the largest wave fluctuations are expected on south-facing beaches such as Malibu, but that even those weren’t expected to reach dangerous levels. He said the rise in tides is supposed to reach La Jolla just before noon and that authorities there will warn L.A. County fire officials if there is reason to take drastic action. Corpus said that as of about 9:30 a.m., surf conditions were not good, at least in Hermosa Beach, because of the winter storm.
“They’re very stormy, very choppy, like a washing machine,” he said.
Mark Jackson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard, said that people sitting on beaches would probably notice only that the water would lap farther onto dry sand, according to the latest forecasts. But he said that harbors could see more movement because of the way the change in water levels could interact with piers and boats.
“With harbors, you could see more deflection of waves in more confined spaces. A lot of times that will speed up the water flow,” Jackson said at 10 a.m. He said that after the initial waves hit Southern California between noon and 12:25 p.m., a second, larger water-level increase should arrive about two hours later, peaking at about 3 feet, he said.
However, he said that the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, was examining data from buoys in the Pacific and that models could soon yield a more updated forecast.

-- Hector Becerra

Graphic: The map shows estimated arrival times Saturday of the minor tsunami, according to predictions issued by the National Weather Service. Credit: Rong-Gong Lin II / Los Angeles Times