National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2009

The November 15, 2006 Kuril Islands-generated tsunami in Crescent City, California

Dengler, L., B. Uslu, A. Barberopoulou, S.C. Yim, and A. Kelly

Pure Appl. Geophys., 166(1–2), 37–53, doi: 10.1007/s00024-008-0429-2 (2009)

On November 15, 2006, Crescent City in Del Norte County, California was hit by a tsunami generated by a Mw 8.3 earthquake in the central Kuril Islands. Strong currents that persisted over an eight-hour period damaged floating docks and several boats and caused an estimated $9.2 million in losses. Initial tsunami alert bulletins issued by the West Coast Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WCATWC) in Palmer, Alaska were cancelled about three and a half hours after the earthquake, nearly five hours before the first surges reached Crescent City. The largest amplitude wave, 1.76-meter peak to trough, was the sixth cycle and arrived over two hours after the first wave. Strong currents estimated at over 10 knots, damaged or destroyed three docks and caused cracks in most of the remaining docks. As a result of the November 15 event, WCATWC changed the definition of Advisory from a region-wide alert bulletin meaning that a potential tsunami is 6 hours or further away to a localized alert that tsunami water heights may approach warning- level thresholds in specific, vulnerable locations like Crescent City. On January 13, 2007 a similar Kuril event occurred and hourly conferences between the warning center and regional weather forecasts were held with a considerable improvement in the flow of information to local coastal jurisdictions. The event highlighted the vulnerability of harbors from a relatively modest tsunami and underscored the need to improve public education regarding the duration of the tsunami hazards, improve dialog between tsunami warning centers and local jurisdictions, and better understand the currents produced by tsunamis in harbors.

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