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Tsunami 2011: A Day in Crescent City, California

Updated on May 25, 2012

Crescent City California, Tsunami Capital of the United States

12:00am: My husband wakes me to tell me about the news he is watching. I work tomorrow and don't really want to hear it but it's catastrophic, an earthquake off the coast of Japan and the deadly tidal wave. Sadness rushes through me and I tell him I want to know more in the morning. I check my son's breathing, his asthma has been acting up all night, and I decide it is time for another breathing treatment. While getting his medicine I peak in at the television and I'm astounded by all the water that has swallowed so much of Japan. After finally getting my son's breathing steadied, I go back to bed and think that maybe he needs to see a doctor tomorrow. He is only 2 and his breathing is becoming quick and I haven't ever seen his asthma act up like this before. The treatment helps, but I still hear his wheezing, so I decide first thing tomorrow he is definitely going in.

12:30am: My husband finally comes to bed and tells me he is also concerned about AJ's loud and quick breathing. The breathing treatment does start to work though and he is breathing deeper and sounding much better.

2:00am: My mother- in- law calls my phone; I am certain it is horrible news as 2:00am phone calls usually are She tells me about the earthquake in Japan and I tell her I have already heard, this can't be all, I could have heard this tomorrow right? Then her voice gets more urgent. She wants us to leave the house because of an advisory of a possible Tsunami threat in our area. Crescent City has once suffered a catastrophic Tsunami in 1964 and we have dealt with multiple warnings since then, but nothing that has damaged our city. I tell her that I will make sure I keep my phone near me in case there is an evacuation. I check my son's breathing again, which has gotten worse, but doesn't warrant an emergency room visit.

2:25am: My mother -in -law calls again advising us that the advisory has been changed to a warning. I tell her thanks for the call. I am half asleep at this point and she tells us we need to leave. I tell her that since it isn't expected until 8am we will wait until morning to see how it looks. She sounds concerned and asks if Will (my husband) is home as she knows he will make sure we are evacuated and safe if need be. I look over to see him partly awake, tell her yes, and she sounds relieved.

2:30am: She calls back and tells us that the warning is for both Hawaii and our area and wants us to go. I tell her we will. I fall back alseep.

4:00am: My mother calls me and tells me that an evacuation is going to be ordered and that we need to come to her house by 6am...she lives in a small town 20 miles east of Crescent City up in the mountains. We decided that traffic could become an issue, so we hop out of bed and grab the kids. I grab my son's breathing machine, because he still sounds bad, and head for the door. We make it to my mother's shortly before 5am. I call my mother -in- law to let her know we are safe.

5:30am: My brother and his family arrive at my mother's, they are outside of the mandatory evacuation zone, however, they are cautious and being near any ocean right now is undesierable so they decide, like us, the further the better. My sister- in- law notices my son's breathing has become stressed so I turn to get his breathing machine. A piece is missing and his breathing is getting worse. I know that seeing a doctor today is going to be impossible, going back to the house is dangerous, and I'm not sure that a breathing treatment would even work. I call the fire department to see if maybe they have a nebulizer, no answer. A quick decision, after some discussion with the family, puts me, my husband, and son in the car headed to a hospital in Oregon (going back to Crescent City sounds more dangerous as the news has warned of the upcoming tsunami threat).

6:30am: We have arrived at the hospital and are in good hands. My son is taken in right away and given treatments and a portable inhaler. I feel horrible that I couldn't have helped him more and worried about what this type of asthma might mean for him. The doctor says that there is a good chance he will outgrow the severity of it. As his breathing treatments are being given, we turn on the news.

7:15am: The first impact of the Tsunami in Crescent City has yet to hit. Everyone waits to see what type of impact it will have on our little community. We sit in the hospital room and watch the news with the nurses and doctors. Japan's devastation has grown as the death toll rises, Hawaii has seen some small waves and rising waters, but nothing catastrophic. California, Oregon, and Washington wait.

9:00am: Still nothing has happened much in the ocean off the coast of Crescent City, many fisherman have decided to return to the harbor after being advised early morning to get their boats out of the water because of possible damange. We are all hopeful that nothing will happen and we can return to our homes soon. But the warning is still in effect as Hawaii has seen some damage and Crescent City usually gets some sort of commotion after an earthquake in the pacific.

9:30am: The first large surge hits our water. It isn't as big as we had thought, and that is a relief, but there are many warnings that more waves are yet to come. The water is getting closer and closer to the roads and the harbor is being rocked. Boats are seeing damage and fisherman who own those boats are getting apprehensive. My dad was a fisherman and I know that this is a livelihood for them and without their boats their income is gone. Many families wait and pray for their homes and boats.


10am: More damage happens; boats are sinking, and crashing into rocks and each other. A friend of mine is updating us about her husband's boat on facebook. We have just heard the news that there were two men swept into the ocean and recovered.

11am: More bad news, the harbor damage is becoming increasingly damaged and the surges have reached over 8 feet. It is sad to watch the news, some reports said that homes were damaged in Crescent City, my home is very close to the water so we turn to our local news and thankfully find out that wasn't true.

12pm: Most of us are too exhausted to stay awake. We have turned off the news hoping for a small break from the worry. As time goes on we determine our town is safe, but the 35 damaged boats and non-existent harbor are catastrophic enough. My son is doing much better and I am thankful for the medical care that he has recieved.

The aftermath of it all

1964 has not repeated itself, however many lives were effected by this tsunami in our small town. The ocean took one life here in Crescent City and swept in several more, that were thankfully rescued. We are thankful that our house was still standing when we returned around 6:30pm, exhausted.

My awareness has been heightened. I am now making an emergency kit that can easily be thrown into the truck. If an earthquake that large were strike off our coast, our town would be swallowed, and I am determined to be prepared to get my children safely to higher grounds. For those lives lost in Japan and the one here, we all mourn and remember that the ocean is a powerful force and nature has reared its ugly side today.


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    • william.fischer29 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very good line up of the happenings in your experience.Fabulous hub!

    • Mandeeadair profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from California

      Thank you all for was a very long day but we are fortunate compared to Japan....just a wake up call for us that this stuff doesn't just happen to "other" people.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      How scary to have a tsunami approaching and your son with breathing problems at the same time. It's good that everything turned out okay for you. Your plan to build an emergency kit is a great plan for all of us.

    • kirstenblog profile image


      7 years ago from London UK

      What a frighting a horrible night for you and your family! It is good that you and your family are safe after this catastrophe. It is also good to read that you are now prepared with an emergency kit so you can get to safety should anything like this ever happen again. It is sad how the belief that this stuff happens to 'other' people often results in people not being prepared and not acting quickly enough, and sometimes that makes all the difference.

    • JLClose profile image


      7 years ago from OreGONE

      Great hub, Mandee. I am so sorry about your boy and his asthma. Thank God you were able to get him in right away somewhere. What an awful day for that all to go down, huh?

      I am so so so grateful that CC didn't sustain more damage. The damage to the harbor was more than enough. I, too, am praying for Japan.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Well done Mandy! I remember when we were little I would see those old signs in downtown CC that showed where the water level rose to back in '64. I remember how badly it scared me and how I always feared another one hitting.

      I ,too, am thankful that it was not as catastrophic here as in Japan, but know that at any time we could have a large quake and fall victim to the same tsunami fatalities if we are not educated and prepared. I will be doing the same, making a plan and survival kit for our family.

      Well written sweetie, so glad AJ is better!


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