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The Nation

March 14, 2011

Calif. port town attracts tsunamis

(Continued)

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. —

That bouncing amplification is what caught Dustin Weber at the mouth of the Klamath River. He and two friends thought the tsunami was over after the first surge, his family said. He was caught in a bigger surge that hit a couple hours later. His body has not been found.

The word tsunami is Japanese for harbor wave, and many times the worst physical damage comes once the waves enter the confines of a harbor, said Costas Synolakis, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Tsunami Research Center at the University of Southern California.

After the 1964 tsunami, Crescent City built a rectangular boat basin. It is great at sheltering boats from stormy seas, but actually makes the effects of the tsunami worse, Dengler said.

"It looks like what happens if you hit a drum," Synolakis said. "You create waves with just one hit to it, but the drum keeps vibrating. What that means is it takes a couple waves to come in. Then you set up these back and forth waves inside the harbor that end up reinforcing each other. Crescent City took about 36 hours for the oscillation to die down."

Another set of oscillations is created by the waves bouncing off the Continental Shelf, he said.

Synolakis hopes that if scientists can understanding the oscillations better, they can design harbors so the water bounces around less.

"What we are realizing in California is if we have tsunamis coming from far away, we are not going to see huge waves of the size we saw in Japan," he said. "But we are going to have these very strong currents that essentially destroy the ports."

"Misty Bob" Page saw the effects firsthand on Friday. Not wanting to spend the day on the ocean riding out the tsunami, he kept his boat, Misty Anne, in the boat basin. The tsunami roared in, one wave after another. His boat was torn loose, and flung about. He and a friend fended off other boats. They managed to duck into another slip and tie up, riding out surges that continued through the night.

"By the time I decided I'd better leave, there was this big wall of water coming in and I couldn't," Page said.

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