Public Asked to Avoid Bay Area Coastline in Wake of Alaska Quake, Canceled Tsunami Watch

A tsunami watch for California's coastline has been canceled after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck off Alaska's Kodiak Island early Tuesday, but officials are still advising people to avoid the immediate Bay Area coastline and stay out of the water through Tuesday evening.

The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management announced that some marinas, harbors and other areas near the shore "may have dangerous, unpredictable conditions."

"There's always the possibility of dangerous currents in the water even though the watch has been canceled," Francis Zamora with the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management said. "It's advisable that you stay out of the water at least for the next 12 hours."

South in Santa Cruz, people who live on boats at the city's harbor were  awakened by harbor patrol officers warning them about the tsunami watch.

Back in 2011, an earthquake that hit off Japan's coast created a tidal wave that sunk a number of vessels and damaged others stationed at the harbor.

Tuesday's strong earthquake hit at 12:30 a.m. and was recorded about 170 miles southeast of Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska.

Initially, the USGS said the earthquake was a magnitude 8.2. That prompted a tsunami warning for coastal Alaska and Canada's British Columbia, while the remainder of the U.S. West Coast was temporarily placed under a watch.

According to USGS geophysicist Brian Kilgore, lateral movement means very little risk of a tsunami, and it meant they were able to put people at ease quickly. Still, he had some words of caution.

"If you're near the coast and you feel an earthquake, it's probably a good idea to move to high ground until you're sure there is no hazard," Kilgore said.

San Mateo County has a tsunami warning system in place. Officials say had things escalated, they would have sent out text alerts for those who had signed up, followed by social media updates.

NBC Bay Area's Scott Budman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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