Tsunami Warning Rattles Nerves Along Calif. Coast

Residents of the Los Angeles-area beach community of Venice talk about the tsunami warning issued Tuesday evening for much of the state's coastal areas. The warning, which was rescinded not long after it was issued, came after a massive quake was detected about 40 miles offshore of the northern California coastal town of Eureka.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR West and Slate magazine online, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, other news. First, the lead, all news is local. After the post-Christmas disaster in the South Asia Archipelago, we all know what the word `tsunami' means. Last night, a bulletin flashed across West Coast TV screens. There had been a magnitude seven earthquake on the ocean floor north of San Francisco. `Look out. A tsunami wave could be coming. If you're near the beach, get to higher ground.' And then a message crawled across the bottom of the screen with times the tsunami might hit--9:15, 9:30, 10:00--as the wave could roll north or south toward LA. It was already 8:30 and this didn't seem like much of a head start. On The Weather Channel, an announcer was offering grim reassurance.

(Soundbite of report from The Weather Channel)

Unidentified Man: The sun will be out. It'll be a beautiful day at the beach provided there still is a beach. Right now, though, there have been no reports...

CHADWICK: I recalled a diagram I'd seen in the LA Times a few months ago of endangered areas along the coast here if a tsunami should strike. It had showed a thin line of ink all along the shore for miles and miles except for my community, which looked like a splotchy thumbprint of danger. Half an hour later, the warning had cleared and I went down to the beach to look for people.

(Soundbite of ocean waves)

CHADWICK: A surfer had just emerged. He had already heard about the warning and that it had been called off. He said he was ready and he looked as though he was. There's a bar and a restaurant where the road ends and the sand begins. There are several actually, but at the neighborhood hangout called the Terrace, a maitre d' said when the owner heard about the tsunami alert, his response had been, `Quick, collect all the money!' This morning, in the half light of dawn, the surf seems a little higher than normal but not much higher. And here comes a jogger, a woman named Amy Galbreath.

Ms. AMY GALBREATH (Jogger): Is this because of the earthquake that occurred?

CHADWICK: Yes. Exactly.

Ms. GALBREATH: On the weekend?

CHADWICK: No, the one--there was one last night off San Francisco.

Ms. GALBREATH: Oh, I am so out of it.

CHADWICK: Really?

Ms. GALBREATH: Really. I don't have a TV. I don't listen to the car radio. I wait to meet people like you to give me the latest update.

CHADWICK: Do you live around here on the beach?

Ms. GALBREATH: I live in Venice, a mile away from the ocean.

CHADWICK: Yeah.

Ms. GALBREATH: So probably I could be affected by something.

CHADWICK: Do you ever think about tsunamis living here?

Ms. GALBREATH: No, not really, or earthquakes.

CHADWICK: But you live in California. You must think about earthquakes.

Ms. GALBREATH: I think because I was born in California...

CHADWICK: Oh.

Ms. GALBREATH: ...it's a different mind-set from the people that I know from the Midwest. They're terrified of earthquakes and how can I live here. But I don't even think about it.

(Soundbite of ocean waves)

CHADWICK: The beach forecast for today in Los Angeles: early fog, sun by noon, surf moderate, kids and everyone else welcome.

(Soundbite of ocean waves)

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