An undersea volcano that erupted near the peaceful nation of Tonga on Saturday sent a wave of waves into Santa Cruz Harbor about 70 miles south of San Francisco.
Lifeguards on personal watercraft left Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor to help a stricken vessel in Monterey Bay off Capitola as tsunami waves battered the Santa Cruz County coastline.
Crowds gathered at the harbor to watch the rise and fall of water strain boat ties at the docks. Law enforcement tried to evacuate people when severe power surges began around 7.30am
About an hour later, a surge ripped through the back lip of the harbor, filling a parking lot and low streets and afloating cars.
Elsewhere, two people were taken to hospital after being swept out to sea while fishing at San Gregorio State Beach in San Mateo County, Cal Fire said.
The waves reached the front of the Santa Cruz beach promenade. People also went to Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz to watch the big waves.
Although experienced surfers consider the waves reaching the west coast to be barely high enough to qualify as swells, the National Weather Service has warned that tsunamis cause deceptive surges powerful enough to pull people out to sea.
This Associated Press article was edited by Record Searchlight reporter Mike Chapman.