By Cory Bilicko
After hearing about the 9-magnitude earthquake on Japan’s northeastern coast and the consequential tsunami, which was indeed expected to reach the United States’ west coast, dozens of Long Beach residents, many who live near the city’s beach, fled to Signal Hill’s Hilltop Park Friday morning to avoid any potential threat from water surges.
The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had issued tsunami warnings for the California coast, and the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles took the precaution of postponing operations involving bunker fuel or hazardous materials. Safety officials advised the public to stay out of the water and off jetties and piers, in the event an unpredictable tidal movement occurred.
Although the warnings were never upgraded to more serious levels and no damage in Long Beach was reported, surges between ten and 12 inches were witnessed in the Downtown Marina.
“City departments responded immediately to deploy precautionary measures when the tsunami advisory was issued, and I applaud our City workers for working quickly to coordinate these efforts,” Mayor Bob Foster said. “I also appreciate that people adhered to warnings from safety officials to stay away from the water. Although we were fortunate not to experience any damage in Long Beach, the devastation in Japan is horrific. Our thoughts are with the people of Japan in the wake of this terrible tragedy.”
Among the residents who sought the safety of Signal Hill’s pinnacle was Long Beach resident Melanie Gottlieb, who was in Hilltop Park with her husband and pet.
“At 4:54, our phone rang and my cousin from Cincinatti, Ohio, called and told us there was an 8.9 earthquake in Japan and to get the heck out of where we were because we’re four blocks from the ocean,” Gottlieb said. “I packed water, medicine, a blanket and some coats and said, ‘We’re going,’ and we brought our dog.”
She said she was aware of how others might see her actions as extreme, but that didn’t bother her. “I’d rather be on alert and feel foolish afterwards than just sit there and worry and not do anything,” she said. “I look at life as an adventure, and this is just another adventure.”
Patricia Castillo, another Long Beach resident, was on the hill with her daughter and several puppies she was trying to sell. “I heard the news when my friend called me at 5:00 in the morning and said to be aware because the tsunami is coming,” Castillo said. “Because I live close to the beach, I’m scared.”
John Fredericks, who also resides near the shoreline, was in the park with his mother and an elderly family friend. When asked why he’d brought his family to Signal Hill that morning, Fredericks said it was just to be safe. “Just in case the tsunami waves are large,” he said. “Plus it’s a perfect view of anything that happens.”