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480,000 Californians live in risk zone for huge tsunami, which could cause $40 billion in damage

March 21, 2011 |  8:54 am

Tsunami surges into Crescent City, Calif.

Tsunami inundation map of Long Beach. Click through for a larger version.About 480,000 Californians live in areas at risk of a 5-foot or greater rise in sea level, according to Lesley Ewing, a senior coastal engineer with the California Coastal Commission.

California faces significantly less risk than Japan for the kind of catastrophic tsunami that swallowed whole towns, killed thousands and reached five miles inland. But officials estimate a Southern California tsunami could cost billions of dollars, inundate areas such as Marina del Rey, Naples and Seal Beach, and affect operations at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

USC researchers estimated in 2005 that the economic losses from a major tsunami in Southern California could reach $40 billion, depending on the extent of disruption to freeways and ports.

Other estimates suggest that a shutdown of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would cost about $1 billion a day.

The ports reported no damage from the recent tsunami in Japan, and officials said the area's geology means they are generally at minimal risk.

Read the full story here: Tsunami's effects in California offer clues about future, more powerful seismic events


UC and Cal State pull all students out of programs in Japan

Customs officials monitoring radiation on incoming LAX passengers from Japan

Animated map shows radioactive material's path across Pacific toward California

-- Abby Sewell

Photo: A boat struggles through an oncoming surge of water in Crescent City, Calif., on March 11. The Japan tsunami roared into the city's boat basin, ripping up docks, sinking 11 boats and damaging 47, causing millions of dollars in damage. Credit: Bryant Anderson / Associated Press

Map: Inundation zone at Los Angeles Harbor. Credit: State of California