The entire Northern California coast was under a tsunami warning for most of Friday. That changed to an advisory late in the day.
The Santa Cruz and Crescent City harbors suffered the most damage. In Southern California, the only damage was in Catalina Island where three boats sank and a section of a pier was damaged.
FEMA said Crescent City suffered the worst damage from the tsunami. A wave at 8:44 a.m., measured at 8.1-feet, took out piers, docks and several boats. It was the first of several damaging tsunami surges. One local called the harbor a total loss. Most of the docks were "gone" according to the Del Norte County sheriff's office and at least 35 boats (both small and large fishing and pleasure vessels) were heavily damaged. In 2006, the area suffered $10 million in damage from a tsunami and officials said Friday's damage was much worse.
Some 20 miles south of Crescent City, the Coast Guard was called in to search for a 25-year-old man who was swept out to sea by a powerful wave generated by the tsunami. Officials say the man was taking photos with two friends near the mouth of the Klamath River in Del Norte County. The two friends were able to get back to shore, but the man could not make it back. At 1:45 p.m. the Del Norte County Sheriff's office said the Coast Guard recovered his body. Five other people were rescued across the state line in Oregon. They were also taking photos of the waves.
FEMA said most of the damage was to private property, which should not impact California's dire fiscal situation. A representative said insurance companies would be responsible for repairing damage to private boats and docks.
Crescent City was one of the first tsunami ready communities in the United States and federal officials said that paid off Friday. Crescent City, which is close to the Oregon state line, was the scene of a deadly tsunami back in 1964 that killed 11 people and destroyed 289 homes and businesses.
The preliminary damage estimate was $2 million in Santa Cruz, where a proclamation of a local emergency has been declared by the Director of Emergency Services.
Due to the nature of the tsunami, subsequent waves were likely to occur throughout the day, according to experts. NBC Bay Area reporter Damian Trujillo was in Santa Cruz harbor all day Friday and said that there was yet another smaller wave that rolled through just before 3 p.m.
NOAA posted the below animation that shows how an earthquake thousands of miles away in Japan can generate a tsunami here in California.