A tsunami advisory took effect Thursday for Santa Monica beaches and a large swath of the Southern California coastline following a pair of high-magnitude earthquakes in Chile.
Santa Monica emergency management officials, local lifeguards and other authorities across Los Angeles County were monitoring coastal waters and urging local residents and tourists to stay out of the ocean until the advisory was lifted.
“We don’t know what energy is out there in the ocean,” said Ken Kondo, emergency program manager for the county Office of Emergency Management. “It’s unpredictable. You might say, ‘Oh, it looks calm,’ but underneath, in the water, it’s not.
“The waves just keep coming in. And it’s not one big giant wave like you’d see in the Hollywood movies. It’s a series of waves for a long period of time.”
The National Weather Service advisory was in place for all coastal communities between San Onofre State Beach, about 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles, to Ragged Point, which is about 50 miles northwest of San Luis Obispo.
No land flooding was expected and no evacuation orders were issued, but officials warned that dangerous waves and strong currents could continue for several days. People in the affected areas were encouraged to avoid the water as well as nearby harbors and marinas.
“We don’t want people to be looky-loos,” Kondo said. “You never know when a wave will come up and pull them out.”
According to a 2013 study by the U.S. Geological Survey, Santa Monica would not likely be seriously impacted by a large-scale tsunami thanks to bluffs that serve as natural barriers.
However, a possible tsunami could cause flooding below the bluffs and in some of the southern portions of the city, according to the study. Evacuating beaches that attract thousands of tourists each year could also pose challenges.
If the impact of the 2011 Japan earthquake on Southern California was any indication, the Santa Monica Pier could also be in danger, officials have said. The pier and beach parking lots were closed briefly at the time.
“It’s a long-distance tsunami, so it’s just a knee-high or waist-high water level, but it’s a constant series of waves,” Kondo said. “You have to monitor the pier and know your surroundings.”
Santa Monica’s emergency plan for tsunamis includes several preparedness tips and lists four schools as refuge sites. For information about the plan, visit www.smgov.net/departments/oem.