Tsunami scare on Santa Elena coast is unfounded; Navy oceanographers say relax, ‘it’s only a syzygy’

Jan 4, 2018 | 2 comments

When residents near Salinas saw the ocean recede on Wednesday  morning, alarms went out on social media that a tsunami was on its way. It is typical, prior to a tsunami, for ocean waters to recede before returning in a tidal wave.

Boats in Santa Rosa bay are stranded on the sand.

“All the fishing boats anchored in Santa Rosa bay are on dry land,” one Facebook post, accompanied by a photo, reported. “Prepare for the tsunami!” it warned.

Frantic callers to 911 in Santa Elena Province were told that there was no tsunami warning and no tsunami danger. Despite the assurance, fishermen who had gathered at the beach decided to call off the day’s fishing.

Early the afternoon, the Navy Oceanographic Institute provided an explanation. The extreme low tide was caused by the rare alignment of the earth, moon and sun, known as a syzygy. “This phenomenon exaggerates the tides, making low tides lower and high tides higher,” the Navy reported. “Many areas of the coast will see larger areas of the seabed exposed during low tide but this is normal in the case of a syzygy. There is no tsunami.”

The Navy said the strongest affects of the phenomenon were felt on Wednesday and Thursday and that tides would return to normal by the weekend.

According to the dictionary, a syzygy is the alignment of three or more celestial bodies.

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