Preparedness & Recovery

Tsunami Watch Provokes Shrug From San Francisco Residents

'It’s something that can always happen, like the earthquake, but what can you do?” he said. “Everyone is not just going to move.'

by Sarah Ravani, San Francisco Chronicle / January 23, 2018

(TNS) — Lynn Lu flipped on Java Beach Cafe’s lights at 5 a.m. Tuesday and got to work opening the small San Francisco coffee and bagel shop just half a mile away from Ocean Beach.

She turned on the coffee pots and cash register, took down the chairs from the wooden tables and opened the doors at 1396 La Playa St.

In Lu’s mind, it was business as usual.

That is until her first customer came in for their morning cup of coffee and told her a tsunami watch had been called in the early morning hours for the coast of California.

“If I’d known about it, it would’ve been scary,” said Lu, 56, who lives by the San Francisco Zoo. “I didn’t know anything about it this morning until a customer told me. When I heard it was canceled, I kind of relaxed.”

A tsunami watch was issued in California after a 7.9 earthquake hit at 1:32 a.m. in the Gulf of Alaska. The National Tsunami Warning Center canceled the tsunami watch at about 4 a.m. but said some areas might still see some sea level changes. The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management advised residents along the coast to remain cautious.

Acting San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted, “Our thoughts are with the people of Alaska this morning, and as always we take this as a good reminder to be prepared for natural disasters.”

Lu said that if a tsunami were to occur, the cafe has some semblance of a plan.

“Boss told us to close everything and run and don’t worry about anything,” she said, adding she would likely “just run.”

Luci Derksen, 24, also works at Java Beach Cafe and lives nearby. She said she didn’t hear any word of a tsunami watch until she arrived to work and overheard customers talking about what they say on the news.

“Usually sirens go off,” said Seamus Collins, 43, to the fellow customers as he grabbed a cup of coffee. “If the sirens go off, then it’s an issue.”

But on Tuesday morning, the sirens never made a peep.

“I’ll be worried when the water starts coming up the street here,” Collins said.

Less than two hours after the tsunami watch was canceled, neighborhoods near Ocean Beach remained quiet. A few people were jogging near the beach while the lights were still off in many apartments. It was the same as any other day for many, including Maurice Thomas, who lives across the street from Ocean Beach.

He poured some honey into his large coffee and said he wasn’t surprised there was a tsunami watch in his neighborhood.

“The waves have been a lot bigger recently,” said Thomas, 28, referring to the high surf warning that was in effect until Friday and has brought waves up to 30 feet.

Like many other neighborhood residents, Thomas didn’t receive any alerts or notifications about a tsunami watch.

“It’s something that can always happen, like the earthquake, but what can you do?” he said. “Everyone is not just going to move.”

Several customers at the 7-Eleven at 1388 46th Ave. trickled in for breakfast sandwiches and coffee, but few had heard about the tsunami watch.

“That’s crazy,” a man said, rubbing his eyes as he continued pouring coffee.

Scott Cox, 56, said he was getting ready for work around 5 a.m. when he heard about the tsunami watch on the news.

“They said they put out something earlier and I was asleep,” he said. “I didn’t hear nothing.”

Sarah Ravani is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: sravani@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SarRavani

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©2018 the San Francisco Chronicle

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