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Engineers: California Tsunami Risk Rises With Sea Levels

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(credit: Kim White/Getty Images)

(credit: Kim White/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The tsunami risk for Southern California will increase in direct proportion to the rise in sea levels, according to a state environmental panel.

KNX 1070’s John Brooks reports the recent — and relatively moderate — surge that hit California’s coastline in the wake of the Japan tsunami caused an estimated $44 million in damages.

However, Lesley Ewing, a senior engineer with the California Coastal Commission, warns that when the ocean level rises — either through the tides or climate change — the damage from any tsunami gets significantly worse.

Before the Japan wave, the most recent tsunami to hit California’s coast was in 1964 from the earthquake in Alaska that tore dozens of boats from their moorings in harbors in L.A. and Long Beach.

But geologists say the fault record shows a far more massive wave hit California in 1700 in the wake of a magnitude 9.0 earthquake on the subduction zone near Oregon.

Researchers say another quake that size on that same fault could generate waves up to 100 feet high.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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