For whatever strange reason, Crescent City, California is prone to tsunamis. In 1964, the town was devastated by a freakish tidal wave. Yesterday, more than 24 hours after a massive earthquake rocked the coast of Russia, another wave rolled into the small fishing town causing significant damage.
Before noon, fishermen in Crescent City working on their boats barely noticed a difference in the waves. In fact, the tsunami was just beginning to build. At 1 p.m. a dock broke loose as water poured into the harbor. The greatest damage occurred about 2 p.m., when the surge topped 5 feet, Young said.
“It just looked like a really rapid river current,” he said. “Tidal wave is an apt name for them. It’s like the tide is coming in really fast. What normally takes six hours occurs in about 10 minutes.”
The current deposited one 20-foot sailboat atop a concrete float. One dock was ripped in half, and another was overturned.
Why is Crescent City so cursed? Nobody really knows, but it seems to have something to do with its crescent harbor, which amplifies the tidal waves:
Particularly in Crescent City. Shaped like a half moon, the bay and its boat harbor have proved to be a “tsunami magnet,” Borrero said, with the right shape, size and depth to catch the magnified energy of an undersea earthquake and turn waves into a destructive force.
The worst-case scenario is a big earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska, he said.
Just that sort of temblor sent a series of massive swells crashing into Crescent City in 1964, destroying 289 homes and businesses. The 11 fatalities are the only recorded tsunami deaths in the continental U.S.