The 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Chile in the early morning hours of Saturday had repercussions around the Pacific Rim, and Santa Barbara was no exception. Soon after the dust was starting to settle in Chile, a tsunami advisory was issued, with news that a series of two-foot waves might hit the Santa Barbara waterfront at 12:31 p.m. But rather than run for the hills, curious onlookers instead headed down to the shoreline to see whether or not the tsunami would touch down here.
“If we can see something, I want the kids to be able to see the effect of something that happened thousands of miles away,” said Jim Semick, of Santa Barbara, who was on Stearns Wharf overlooking the ocean with two seven-year-olds, Sean and Drew. “The waves are getting bigger!” yelled the kids to each other right at the supposed tsunami time, their imaginations much more apparent than the waves. “They’re getting bigger!”
A few minutes earlier, the large charter boats from Sea Landing could be seen heading out to sea one after the other. “The Harbor Patrol told us to get our big boats out in case of damage,” said Sea Landing’s Heather Sherman. “They said there could be a three-foot surge.”
The Harbor Patrol confirmed that they were asking people to leave the harbor and beach area “just to keep everyone safe,” said Victoria Voss, adding that the 12:31 p.m. surge did not occur. But she explained that at about 12:50 p.m., a call came from the Ventura Harbor about a two-foot surge. “The surge can last for almost two hours,” said Voss.
Meanwhile, back on the pier, Ryan Grau and two friends were watching with cameras in hand to spot any wave action. “Look at this idiot down there playing with his dog!” laughed Grau, pointing to a person and their pet splashing in the waters of West Beach, later turning their attention to another brave soul paddling out into the turbulent storm waters on a surfboard. Though they did not see anything all that exciting, Grau pointed out, “The water has gone down and come up quite a bit.”
UPDATE, 3:20 p.m.:The tidal surge from the Chilean earthquake-triggered tsunami has caused serious damage to nine docks in the residential part of the Ventura Harbor and knocked some navigational aids out of service, but there have been no injuries or fatalities. “We’ve had some significant tidal surges and tidal exoduses,” said John Higgins, of Ventura Harbor Patrol, explaining that the three or four tidal sucks took the harbor waters from a positive 2.5 feet down to a negative 3 feet. “That’s what has caused most of the problems,” he said, though he also added, “The wave action along the beaches was negligible.” The situation in Ventura was still a bit tense, as Higgins explained, “We’re just kind of working through it all right now.”
The surging also made its way to Santa Barbara. “There is significant surging in and out of the harbor,” said Victoria Voss of the Harbor Patrol. “We’re not in all clear mode yet, but there’s not been any damage so far.”