updated 03/11/2011 AT 1:00 PM ET
•originally published 03/11/2011 AT 2:20 PM ET
The eyes of the world focused on Japan on Friday, after a horrific 8.9-magnitude earthquake, whose epicenter was close to Tokyo, struck off the country’s coast. Experts are labeling the geological disaster the strongest ever in recorded history to rock Japan and one of the largest quakes on earth in the past 100 years. The official death toll, so far, is more than 1,000 people, Japanese media outlets are reporting.
As a result of the earthquake, a tsunami overtook cities and farmland in northern Japan and signaled coastal alerts in Hawaii and up and down the Pacific coasts of North and South America. Waves as high as eight feet began crashing into the northern California coast in Crescent City shortly after 7:30 a.m. Friday, creating surges that pried some boats loose from docks as coastal residents throughout the state rushed to higher ground.
Those living in Santa Cruz Country were advised to evacuate, reports the Los Angeles Times. Newport Beach, on Southern California’s gold coast, has closed its waterfront school and cleared the beach and boardwalk, the paper also reports.