An 8.9 level earthquake in Japan resulted in the National Weather Service issuing a tsunami warning for San Luis Obispo County as well as other areas on the California coast.
The tsunami waves were expected to hit at 8:09 a.m. today, causing evacuation of low-lying coastal areas of San Luis Obispo County, including areas in Morro Bay, Point San Luis, downtown Avila Beach and Pismo Beach. Two schools in the area, Morro Bay High School and Bellevue Santa-Fe Charter School, were closed. The rest of San Luis Obispo County schools remain open.
The warning comes after the earthquake and a 23-foot tsunami hit off the coast of Japan. At least 200 to 300 bodies were found on the beach of Sendai, with another 110 deaths confirmed, according to a Los Angeles Times article written by Barbara Demick, David Pierson and Kenji Hal. The death toll is expected to rise as full damage is realized. Currently, a boat carrying more than 100 passengers is missing, as well as a train.
Public transportation in Japanese cities is shut down, casuing many Japanese workers to walk long distances home with no cell phone service — though data plans appear to be working. As a result, Google has released a “people finder” application which has information on more than 7,200 people. Those with the application can describe their situation, and others, in their area.
The devastation also caused concerns about Japanese nuclear power plants. Eleven nuclear power plants have been closed, and those in nearby Fukushima Prefecture nuclear power plant were evacuated due to a malfunctioning reactor cooling system. Though officials say no nuclear waste has leaked, at least 4 million Japanese are now without power. There has also been more than 80 aftershocks — some ranging up to 6.0 levels — more than 80 fires reported across the country — including several in large oil refineries — and an airport in Sendai is partially submerged, according to the Los Angeles Times article.
Though Japan’s nuclear power plants are facing problems, the power plants in California, including those in San Luis Obispo and San Diego County, are reported to be operating normally, according to a KSBY article released by the Associated Press. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has released an “unusual event” warning, which is “the lowest of four levels of emergency classification.” The NRC said the power plants are built to withstand tsunamis and earthquakes.
There are additional tsunami warnings in the Bay Area, Santa Barbara County and Southern California.
The National Weather Service also advised warnings for Oregon and Alaska, as well as many coastal regions around the world. Yet, the tsunamis in other regions are not expected to reach the magnitude of Japan’s. The waves in areas north of Point Conception in Santa Barbara and the largest waves expected in Point San Luis are expected to be between 3 to 7 feet, far lower than the 23-foot wave in Japan, according to a San Luis Obispo Tribune article released by the Associated Press.
For those seeking relief in San Luis Obispo County, five disaster shelters have been set up by the Red Cross. The shelters are located in Arroyo Grande at 1128 North Branch, in Avila Beach at the PG&E Community Center located on Ontario Rd., in Morro Bay at the Veteran’s Hall, in Cayucos at St. Joseph’s Church and in Cambria at the Presbyterian Church located on Yorkshire Drive.