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How Can We Help Tsunami Victims?

From Bay City News Service and Healdsburg Patch.

Bay Area charities are encouraging people to donate money to assist the response to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck off the northeast coast of Japan on Thursday night.

The American Red Cross is on standby to assist its Japanese counterparts, and has a warehouse in nearby Malaysia that is fully stocked with supplies if its help is needed, said Caitlin Cobb of the organization's Bay Area chapter.

The Red Cross has set up a fund for Bay Area residents to donate to the disaster response effort, Cobb said.

Those wishing to donate can visit the organization's website at www.redcrossbayarea.org or call (888) 4HELPBAY.

The Salvation Army is also responding to the disaster, which most badly damaged the city of Sendai, about 250 miles from Tokyo, according to the organization.

The Salvation Army has nearly 1,000 employees working throughout Japan and is also seeking donations for the response.

To donate, visit the organization's website at www.salvationarmyusa.org, call (800) SAL-ARMY, or text the word "Quake" or "Japan" to 80888 to donate $10.

Material goods are not being requested at this point in the relief effort because of the logistical challenges of shipping and distributing the items, Salvation Army officials said.

BAY AREA ESCAPES SERIOUS DAMAGE

Most of the Bay Area was not directly affected today by the deadly tsunami that hit Japan Thursday night, despite concerns that residual waves crashing onto the California coastline could cause damage or injuries.

A tsunami warning was issued early this morning in the region after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan led to a tsunami that killed hundreds of people.

Local damage seems to have been restricted mainly to the Santa Cruz Harbor, but precautions were taken across the Bay Area - including evacuation plans, transit cancellations and school closures - due to wave swells expected just before 8 a.m.

The harbor has sustained an estimated $2 million in damage so far, and the director of emergency services has issued a local emergency, county spokesman Enrique Sahagun said.

Two docks and three vessels sustained major damage, and several other experienced minor damage, he said.

About 10 boats had been pulled loose from their moors and were crashing into one another at about 9:20 a.m. near Aldo's Harbor Restaurant, general manager Alfredo Servin said.

The diner is right on the water at 616 Atlantic Ave., and Servin said he could also see a lot of debris.

Harbor officials advised the public to evacuate the area.

"Do not come to the harbor to secure your vessel," said a warning on the harbor's website. "Harbor crews are working to secure the area."

Servin said he could see quite a few people out in the harbor, but it was not clear if they were all emergency officials.

He said his restaurant was not open for business.

"We don't want to put people in danger," he said. "We have highway and city police advising us what to do."

The county's beaches were closed this morning along with roads to the Santa Cruz Beach Flats area, including the Boardwalk and Wharf, officials said.

The closures included Beach Street at the Wharf, Riverside Avenue at Third Street, Laurel Street Extension at Third Street, and Pacific Avenue at Center Street.

The areas will reopen once the warning has been lifted, officials said.

Santa Cruz County residents in coastal or low-lying areas wer also told to evacuate their homes and move to higher ground, county spokesman Sahagun said.

Reception areas were established at a fire department community center, the Santa Cruz Auditorium, the county fairgrounds, a park in Capitola, and Resurrection Church.

San Mateo County officials also advised residents in the low-lying areas west of Highway 1 to move to ground east of the highway, according to the county's emergency alert system.

Evacuation shelters were established at several local high schools and an elementary school.

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, transit officials monitored the situation to see if they needed to alter service due to the tsunami warning.

BART officials initially considered suspending service through the Transbay Tube, but as of about 8:40 a.m., the agency had decided the waves were not substantial enough to warrant the closure, spokesman Linton Johnson said.

The Transbay Tube and the San Francisco and Peninsula stations are underground or below sea level, and could potentially be damaged if the waves were higher, Johnson said.

San Francisco police closed Great Highway at about 5 a.m. today from Point Lobos at 48th Avenue to Lake Merced, police Lt. Troy Dangerfield said.

The 18-46th Avenue and 23-Monterey San Francisco Municipal Railway
lines were rerouted off of Great Highway as a result, Muni officials said.

Earlier this morning, the bluffs above San Francisco's Ocean Beach were dotted with spectators who had heard about the tsunami warning and couldn't resist seeing the effects for themselves.

At about 8:30 a.m., the sun was shining, the air was warm, and the waves seemed no more dramatic than most days, several Sunset District residents said.

"This looks normal," said construction salesman Greg Miller, who lives a few blocks from the beach.

Standing on a bluff near Great Highway and Vicente Street, Miller said he wasn't worried about the tsunami warning.

"It hit Hawaii and didn't seem to do anything to Hawaii," he said.

Ben Derbidge and Garrick Bowie, both 39, agreed that the waves seemed about average.

They live across the street from the beach and said they don't feel vulnerable to tsunamis -- despite the installation of tsunami evacuation route signs in the neighborhood in recent years.

"There's one right in front of our house," Derbidge said.

Most of the region's schools remained open today, but all Pacifica schools were closed as a precaution, school district officials announced. The district office and its departments were also closed, according to the Pacifica School District.

2 BOATS CAPSIZE IN SANTA CRUZ — Two boats capsized in Santa Cruz Harbor and a sailboat crashed into a nearby bridge as tsunami waves hit the region this morning, a police spokesman said.

An advisory evacuation order went into effect at about 6 a.m. for beachfront homes near the harbor and remained in effect as of 11 a.m., Santa Cruz police Deputy Chief Steve Clark said.

Surges of water caused several boats to come loose at the harbor and crash into each other, spectators said. Clark said two boats have capsized, and a sailboat crashed into the harbor bridge. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office estimates that the surges have caused about $2 million in damage in the area.

Clark said surges are still coming in every 15-20 minutes, and "we're concerned about the next high tide," which is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

No injuries have been reported, he said. Authorities are continuing to monitor the harbor and beach area, Clark said.

EVACUATIONS IN SAN MATEO COUNTY — Hundreds of cars parked on the side of state Highway 92 this morning as people evacuated from coastal San Mateo County cities in advance of possible tsunami waves, causing the California Highway Patrol to advise people to park elsewhere so emergency vehicles could get through the area.

Cars began parking along the side of Highway 92 at about 5 a.m. this morning after authorities issued a warning of the possible tsunami, CHP Officer Art Montiel said.

Many of the cars were driven by people leaving low-lying coastal communities like Half Moon Bay, Montiel said.

He said the CHP advised people to not park along the highway because "we need to keep that clear in case we need to bring emergency vehicles that way." Vehicles were instead encouraged to park along Canada Road, which is located nearby.

Information provided by Bay City News Service.

Louisa Hufstader (Editor) March 11, 2011 at 11:03 PM
This came by email from the city of Napa at 2:51 p.m.: "(Napa CA) A tsunami warning remains in effect for coastal area of northern California. The earthquake off the coast of Japan has generated a series of waves that are potentially dangerous several hours after the arrival of the initial wave. A very minimal wave surge is expected in the northern part of San Pablo Bay and in the undeveloped wetlands areas in Napa County including the Napa River. No damage is anticipated, and no Emergency Operations have been initiated. Other communities, however, are feeling the effects of the tsunami. All state parks and beaches in Sonoma County are closed. Coastal areas from Crescent City to Monterey have seen damage to docks, piers and boats, and a portion of Highway 1 is closed in Mendocino County. Public safety staff will continue to monitor the situation."

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