EUREKA, Calif. (CN) - Despite National Weather Service sirens and warnings to get to high ground since 4:30 a.m., a man was swept out to sea near Crescent City, Calif., while taking photographs of tsunami waves.
He was declared dead several hours later. Four in Brookings, Ore., also were swept off the coast but able to make it to shore. The missing man's two friends made it to shore after having been swept off with him.
A tsunami warning for the U.S. West Coast was issued this morning after an 8.9 earthquake hit 8 miles off the coast of Japan, wreaking widespread destruction. Sheriffs told all who live in low-lying areas of Humboldt County, Calif., to get to high ground, and Crescent City in Del Norte County, Calif., was evacuated south of 9th Street, according to the local news crawl. Parts of coastal Highway 101 were closed, roads in low-lying areas were blocked, and people in coastal cities were encouraged to get to high ground. The tsunami warning is in effect until evening.
West Coast residents near rivers, such as in the wine country north of San Francisco, also were warned to be cautious of the tsunami.
CNN reported that the tsunami was predicted to be a "positive wave," which means the wave hits land at its height rather than creeping in low and slowly before pulling back and building to its full height, as many have been taught to expect.
The waves began hitting at approximately 7:30 a.m., and people were warned of multiple waves hitting the coast over several hours, especially around noon, at high tide.
The initial surge in Crescent City was 2 to 2.5 feet high, per Lori Dengler, geology professor at Humboldt State. By 1 p.m., waves up to eight feet tall had hit the Crescent City Harbor, obliterating the docks and crumbling the 35 boats that had not been taken out to sea to avoid damage.
A 6-foot wave hit Maui at about 7 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, after smaller waves hit the Hawaiian islands every 15 minutes before the big wave. Waves continued to hit the shore for hours and travel upriver to hit inland areas as well.
The earthquake hit 8 miles off the coast of Japan at 2:46 p.m. local time. Hundreds are dead and thousands are missing after that quake and the tsunami following it, which brought waves of up to 30 feet, according to CNN.