Posted by ws1 on:
Curious about the possibility of earning myself a fresh Darwin award, I went down to the Santa Barbara harbor in hopes of seeing whatever mild tsunami side effects I could. I wasn't too worried about being swept away because there was only a gentle 'tsunami advisory' warning, which means (apparently) that it's best to stay clear of beaches and oceanfront zones, but that no major event was expected (Stearns Wharf remained open all day).
After arriving at the Wharf, I waited around for a while. First I noticed that the tide was especially low - which I wasn't really ready to attribute it to the tsunami (though a common precursor to giant waves is of course, water levels dropping rapidly). But the more I looked at the very familiar harbor waters, the more it was clear to me that whatever was happening wasn't normal.
When I got to the top of the wharf, the muddy brown water was gently moving out to sea. Nothing shocking.. but it was definitely moving south, out the mouth of the harbor. I've seen this kind of thing happen in other tidal zones, and even here in SB to a small extent (Carp salt marsh), but this was more pronounced and a little nerve-wracking considering the context. Still, I was willing to give credit to the bizarre weather.
After a cup of chowder, I walked again to face (west) the jetty. This time it was obvious something was up - that was not due to the stormy conditions.
The water inside the channel for the harbor was suddenly turbulent, choppy and swirling - in a pattern that I've never seen before. The dredge was almost totally exposed, and the tide had dropped (even) further. The 'Conception', which was headed into the harbor, had to stop in it's tracks half-way in, and do a full-reverse for several hundred feet to get back into the open ocean. Several other boats also aborted their plans to enter, as the harbor channel rapidly turned into a shallow muddy river.
The (native) couple I was standing with (who have lived here for 50 years, and were self-described 'thrill seekers') had never seen anything like it. My instinct (from every random tsunami film or article I've ever seen) was to head for the hills. So I did (after grabbing a piece of chocolate from the Wharf candy store). As I left, I noticed that the water level was starting to gently rise again, which was reassuring. Though I have to admit that I kept a paranoid eye towards the horizon for a while.
I am now sitting a few blocks away from the beach and monitoring Twitter for tsunami news (seems that it failed to become a wave and only hit Hawaii and California in the form of a small tidal surge..).
On twitter '@ihuntmidgets' summed it up it best: " I am totally disappointed that there have been zero Patrick Swayze sightings during this Tsunami"
On a serious note, I am glad to see that no one has been hurt this far north. And of course, our thoughts are with the people Chile during such a horrible time. At magnitude 8.8.. the tectonic plates aren't messing around. And we know all too well that here in coastal california, we're not immune to much nastier days.
This doesn't really do it justice. My poor camera-phone can't zoom.
Boats (that had been waiting off the end of the wharf) finally to re-entering the harbor.