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In Newport, waves of concern but few local worries

Japan's 8.9-magnitude earthquake had little effect on Newport, whose residents received cautionary calls at 4 a.m.

March 11, 2011|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com
(Mike Reicher | mike.reicher@latimes.com )

NEWPORT BEACH — After a day of suspense and anticipation, Newport-Mesa residents were left with calm waters and heavy hearts for those in Japan hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

People flocked to bluffs and other vantage points to see the seas change, but for the most part they could see no perceptible difference from any other sunny March day.

Their schedules may have been affected, though. Authorities called residents at 4 a.m. to warn them of a coming tidal wave. Due to the tsunami advisory, the school district also closed Newport Elementary School on the Balboa Peninsula, and kept people off the beaches and out of the water until 1 p.m.

No damage was reported.

The National Weather Service issued the advisory for Southern California after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Japan the night before. Newport residents were awakened by an emergency warning from the city, saying strong currents or dangerous waves are expected, and that people should avoid the water. But significant, widespread inundation was never a threat.

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"Looks like we lucked out," City Manager Dave Kiff said. "You usually want to err on the side of being a little bit more cautious."

By afternoon, Newport emergency responders were still on alert, and Kiff said they may keep their emergency operations center open into the evening.

U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and vessel crews reported sea level rises along the California coast, as well as uncommon swells and currents.

In Newport, at least one resident reported a 1-foot repetitive tide change near Linda Isle, Kiff said.

Officials decided not to sound the city's new coastal emergency sirens because of the relatively low threat to life and property. Also, the quake happened the night before, and people would probably be aware enough of the danger by morning, Kiff said.

Many crowded Lookout Point in Corona del Mar, keeping an eye open for any sign of a tsunami. None came.

"As soon as the animals leave, we'll follow," said Michelle Hobson, 25.

Many dogs yapped and barked, but none appeared to exhibit extraordinary signs of pending natural disaster.

Some children played in the coastal brush, happy school was cancelled. Newport Elementary, the beachfront school on the Balboa Peninsula, was closed for the day "as a precaution in anticipation of the possibility of flooding in the area," according to an emergency warning from the district.

But by about 9 a.m., many people grew tired of waiting at Lookout Point, or had somewhere to go, and left.

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