• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Tsunami tidal surge drains Long Beach Harbor

February 27, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The water emptied out of Long Beach harbor as the effect of a tsunami tidal surge caused by the 8.8 magnitude quake in Chile.Phil Suhovy knows all about low tide at the marina, but never has he seen the water recede this quickly.

"We came back and within about 10 minutes the water looked like it had dropped two feet," he said.

A tsunami tidal surge was responsible for what was an unusual afternoon in Long Beach.

Sail boats were left high and dry many propped up by their keel. One tipped over onto the dock as the water receded several feet in as little as 15 minutes.

Dale Schwartz from Long Beach says the tidal surge first came at about noon. Then by 2 p.m. the surge started to recede. A tidal event that would usually take hours took only a few minutes.

"Extremely quick tidal surge, something I've never seen before," Schwartz said. "Normally it takes hours for the tide to go from low to high and in this instance the tide is changing so rapidly."

At one point, the coast guard stopped large vessels from entering Long Beach harbor because the water levels had dropped so significantly.

That precautionary measure was lifted at about 4:30 p.m. but local boaters were stunned by what they saw.

"We got back and the water level dropped," boater Michael Penfold said. "I can't say how many feet, but I've never seen it that steep before or that low.

The tidal surge at other local beaches was barely noticeable. In Santa Monica, a two foot surge was recorded.

The real issue for Southern California coastal areas, according to the national weather service, will be changes in currents in local breakwaters and harbors.