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Damage mounts, one man missing in Northern California

The Coast Guard searched for a man Friday who was swept out to sea by powerful waves generated by the tsunami in Northern California while taking photos near the mouth of the Klamath River in Del Norte County.

Two friends with him were able to get back to shore, but the man remained missing.

Coast Guard officials said they have dispatched helicopters in search of him.

The tsunami triggered by the massive earthquake in Japan rushed onto California's coast Friday morning, causing powerful surges that destroyed boat docks as beach-area residents throughout the state evacuated to higher ground.

The tide began rising shortly after 7:30 a.m. along beaches in Crescent City, near the Oregon border, where the tsunami had been expected to hit the hardest in California. Reports posted by the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said waves in Crescent City topped 8 feet.

Local officials activated tsunami warning sirens in Del Norte and Humboldt counties at dawn, and sheriff's deputies went door to door in Crescent City at dawn to urge residents in low-lying areas to seek higher ground.

By midmorning, water rushing into the harbor had destroyed about 35 boats and ripped chunks off the wooden docks, as marina workers and fishermen scrambled to secure property in between surges. When the water returned, someone would yell "Here comes another one!" to clear the area.

"The last surge filled the entire harbor up to the brim and the next one is expected to spill into the parking lot," said Bill Steven, a commander with the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office. "The damage from this is probably going to go into the millions, easily."

Ted Scott, a retired mill worker who lived in Crescent City when a 1964 tsunami killed 17 people on the West Coast, including 11 in his town, watched the water pour into the harbor.

"This is just devastating. I never thought I'd see this again," Scott said. "I watched the docks bust apart. It buckled like a graham cracker."

The waves, however, had not made it over a 20-foot break wall protecting the rest of the city, and no serious injuries or home damage was immediately reported.

— Associated Press