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Tsunami: Crescent City like a ‘ghost town’ as part of the community remains evacuated

March 11, 2011 |  1:10 pm

An 8-foot swell destroyed about 35 boats and decimated the harbor in Crescent City on Friday morning, and more powerful waves could be coming later, officials said.

So far, one fatality has been reported in Brookings, Ore., about 25 miles to the north of Crescent City, and one man is missing in the Crescent City area, Councilwoman Kelly Schellong said.

Crescent City, just south of the Oregon border, successfully evacuated part of the city at 4 a.m., Councilman Richard Enea said. Schools, banks and businesses in the downtown area are closed for the day, and the highway that runs through the town of 5,0000 residents has been shut down. A tsunami warning remains in effect until 6 p.m.

Photos: Tsunami surge damages Crescent City harbor

"It's a ghost town right now," Enea said. "It's very eerie — you don't see people anywhere."

The missing man was washed into the nearby Klamath River, but Schellong said she wasn't sure if he had been rescued.

Enea said he and other city and county officials were warned of the tsunami late Thursday. They followed a plan put in place after a devastating tsunami swept through the town in 1964, killing 11 people. A warning siren was sounded within the city, and shelters were opened at local churches.

"When we sounded that siren at 4 a.m., people automatically turned on the radio," Enea said. "The broadcast was, 'This is real, you have until 7 a.m., so get your stuff together.' And people could see what was going on on TV."

Enea said there wasn't a sense of panic in town because people had time to collect their belongings and call relatives. He also said the procedure has been practiced before.

But there's still concern that a larger wave could cause greater damage, he said. A more powerful wave could flood Elk Creek, which is what happened in 1964.

"If it gets much higher we're going to have major problems," he said. "A lot of our commercial buildings are at risk right now."

Chris Van Hook, a onetime harbor commissioner in Crescent City who now has an abalone farm, said, "It did wreck quite a few boats."

He went down to his abalone building at 3 a.m. to pull the electrical equipment and important papers, but said the water doesn't appear to have hurt his building. The harbor is a different matter, he said.

"Chaos is still sort of reigning," Van Hook said.

Crescent City and Fort Bragg were the two cities hit hardest by the tsunami caused by a 1964 earthquake in Alaska.


Docks ripped out in Fort Bragg fishing community

1964 video of deadly tidal wave washing into Crescent City

Flights to and from Japan canceled at LAX

-- Sam Allen and Alana Semuels

Photo: A fishing boat is on its side in shallow water in the boat basin at Crescent City after a tsunami surge Friday. Credit: Jeff Barnard / Associated Press