Rapid Response - Solutions for Economic Transition

California Tsunami: Surge Deals Blow To Small Town Of Crescent City

by Jeff Barnard
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CRESCENT CITY, Calif. — Fishermen who had escaped to sea before the tsunami hit this struggling coastal town landed small loads of crab on Saturday, while crews surveyed damage and a family combed the beach for any sign of a man who was swept away a day ago as he photographed the waves.

"This harbor is the lifeblood of our community and the soul of our community," said Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson as he looked across what was left of the Crescent City boat basin, which last year saw landings of crab and fish worth $12.5 million. "The fishing industry is the identity and soul of this community, besides tourism."



The region has never recovered from the loss of the timber industry in the 1980s and 1990s, and downturns in salmon fishing, said Wilson, who fished on his father's boats as a young man.

"It's going to be hard to recover here," he said.

A series of powerful surges generated by the devastating earthquake in Japan arrived about 7:30 a.m. Friday and pounded the harbor through the day and night. Eight boats were believed sunk and dozens of others damaged; an unmanned sailboat sucked out of the harbor ran aground on the coast.

About 20 miles south, the family of a 25-year-old Oregon man combed the beach looking for signs of him. Authorities say Dustin Weber was swept away as he and two friends photographed the waves.

"He just didn't respect the ocean and didn't understand the tsunami," his father, Jon Weber, said. "The (first surge) hit about 7:30. It was the second wave that hit at 9:30 that got him."

Back north in Crescent City, crews geared up for the enormous task of assessing and fixing the damage to the port, where a sheen of oil floated in the basin. Seagulls feasted on mussels exposed by upended docks. About 80 percent of the docks that once sheltered 140 boats were gone.

"Our port is struggling," said Kevin Wilson, manager of Nor-Cal Seafood Inc. "Since the last tsunami in '06, they secured the funds to fix it, and this took away all the stuff they were gonna build off."

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