Malibu experiences tidal surges, no damage from tsunami

The first tidal surge from the tsunami that originated in Japan after a 9.0 earthquake struck off its coast sweeps ashore at Surfrider Beach Friday morning. Although innocuous looking, surges that were 8 feet high damaged boats in harbors such as in Santa Cruz, where tidal surges swept concrete moorings away, damaging boats. Photo by Dave Lichten / TMT

A Malibu resident with family in Japan says they are safe, and a local business owner is organizing a relief effort for the stricken country.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

The tsunami caused by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that hit Japan last week caused three-foot surges and strong currents on Malibu beaches Friday, but no damage. Meanwhile, a local resident was able to reach her family in Japan by phone to learn her parents and siblings were safe.

The estimated magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan’s northeastern shore at 2:46 p.m. Tokyo time Friday and spawned a 23-foot tsunami, causing severe damage in northern Japan. More than 10,000 people are feared dead. In the last few days, explosions at a nuclear power plant whose cooling systems were damaged by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami have stoked fears of a full nuclear meltdown. At least 275 aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater have been recorded since the initial earthquake.

Some fear that radiation from a complete meltdown could extend to the West Coast, which is separated from Japan by the 5,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean. While the Daily Mail, a British online newspaper, reported that “worried Americans are panic-buying drugs to protect themselves against the nuclear fallout in Japan,” experts say there is little chance that any radioactive material will reach the United States.

Corral Canyon resident Ayako Yoshida, who immigrated to America 30 years ago, said she was able to speak with her mother in Kamakura and learned that her parents and brother were safe. Yoshida said she later found out that relatives in the Sendai area, where the impact was most severe, were also safe.

Clay York, whose father is the publisher of The Malibu Times, has conducted business in Japan in the past. York said he spoke to a friend who lives in Yokohama, a port city in central Japan, on Saturday. York said during the initial earthquake, his friend said he “felt like his knees were giving out every second, he couldn’t really stand.”

York’s friend told him they then heard a tsunami warning, and “it went completely into panic mode.” After the news of the tsunami in the north spread, York’s friend told him the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area, which has more than 35 million residents, “was like a ghost town.”

Yoshida in an email expressed gratitude for the outpouring of concern from people in the Malibu community.

“I have never felt this touched by big hugs, kind words and sincere concerns for my family and the people of my country from not only friends but even from neighbors and acquaintances with whom I have exchanged words in the past but are not close,” she wrote.

She said her friends in Japan told her people who wish to help recommended donating to the Japanese Red Cross Society at its Web site,

Malibu Business and Shipping Center owner Nereida Heath told The Malibu Times her company would be organizing a drive to send goods, money, clean water and assistance to Japanese earthquake victims from now until May 3. Heath said dry groceries, blankets and warm clothing could be donated at her store. All items must be cleaned and ready for shipping. The store is located at 22627 Pacific Coast Highway.

Local tidal action mild

The entire California coastline was under a Tsunami Advisory from early Friday morning until 8:20 a.m. Saturday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Tsunami Warning Center. A Tsunami Advisory is a low-level warning that indicates that a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves dangerous to persons in or very near the water is expected.

While Malibu and Southern California avoided damage, areas of Northern California were hit hard. Eight-foot waves hit the harbor of Crescent City, near the Oregon border, destroying much of it and killing one person. In Santa Cruz Harbor, 17 boats sunk and up to 50 others were damaged, while strong waves turned the harbor in Santa Barbara into a tidal pool, sweeping away a large fishing barge and nearly destroying a 200-ton crane barge. The total cost of the damage is estimated at $50 million, according to reports.

The first tidal surges reached Malibu around 8:30 a.m. Friday. The Los Angeles County Fire Department recorded three-foot surges every 15 minutes at speeds of 10 to 15 mph, spokesman Sam Padilla said.

Officials at the Zuma Beach Lifeguard Headquarters warned beachgoers to stay out of the water and off the beach Friday, but when large waves never materialized, curious onlookers showed up anyway.

A popular spot on Friday afternoon was Surfrider Beach, where water levels rose and fell rapidly every 10 to 15 minutes. Surfer Brent Mandel reported a strange “tsunami pulse” that interfered with the normal break of the wave.

Mandel’s son Shane told The Malibu Times, “The current was so strong, I had to paddle really hard just to stay in the same place.”

City of Malibu Emergency Services Coordinator Brad Davis said he spent Thursday night monitoring the progress of the tsunami and staying in contact with City Manager Jim Thorsen. Davis said they considered activating the city’s Connect-CTY program, which sends a mass notification of emergency to all registered residential and business phone numbers in the city, to inform people that damage was not expected. They decided against it, he said, because they wanted to avoid a panic.

Davis said had the tsunami been more serious, the city would have activated the Connect-CTY program to warn everyone in Malibu of its impending arrival.

How to Help Japan

– Donations can be made to the Japanese Red Cross Society online at

– Malibu Business and Shipping Center (22627, Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, 90265) is organizing a drive to send goods, money, clean water and assistance to Japanese earthquake victims from now until May 3. Dry groceries, blankets and warm clothing can be donated at the store. All items must be cleaned and ready for shipping.

– The International Medical Corps is sending relief teams and supplies to Japan:

– The Red Cross has already launched efforts in Japan. Visit or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 from your phone.