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The Nation

March 13, 2011

Tsunami surge deals blow to struggling Calif. town

(Continued)

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. —

"We've been down here in hurricane-force winds before, and we'll keep working," he said.

For the crews tasked with repairs, it would be a longer wait. Divers could not go into the water and workboats could not maneuver until the tsunami surges end, said Alexia Retallack, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Game. Local officials were keeping a close eye on Japan through the weekend, in case aftershocks cause another tidal surge.

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."

"I think he expected the wave to come out of the ocean, but it didn't. It came down the shore," he said.

Santa Cruz harbor, 350 miles to the south, was the only other California port hard-hit by the waves. But the commercial fishing industry was minimally affected. Most of the 850 boats were pleasure boats, including 60 that are lived in full-time.

Cranes hauled up sunken boats — some possibly salvageable, others snapped into pieces — while crews in life jackets and rubber boots waded near the shore, yanking chunks of broken docks, floating hunks of foam and other trash from the water.

Port Director Lisa Ekers said the tsunami caused at least $17.1 million in damage to the harbor, and another $4 million to private boats. Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency declaration for the harbor, which can expedite funding for repairs.

One dock, with close to 40 boats, was ripped out during the surges. So far, they found 18 vessels "sitting on the bottom," creating an environmental risk from leaking fuel, Ekers said.

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