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Light planes and vehicles sit among the debris after they were swept by a tsumani that struck Sendai airport in northern Japan on Friday (late Thursday PST). A magnitude 8.9 earthquake slammed Japan's eastern coast, unleashing a 13-foot (4-meter) tsunami that swept boats, cars, buildings and tons of debris miles inland.

A tsunami warning was in effect today for the coast of Southern and Central California because of the magnitude 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan, which officials said was the largest in that country's recorded history.

The first waves may hit shore in San Pedro, Santa Monica and Newport Beach starting about 8:30 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

But Dr. Ken Hudnut of the U.S. Geological Survey cautioned that the first arriving waves may not be the biggest waves, which could hit about three hours afterward.

Hudnut also noted that concerns about a tsunami in Hawaii following last year's Chile earthquake did not materialize.

Currents may be hazardous to swimmers, boats and coastal structures and may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival.

"Current intelligence indicates a 3-foot surge may impact the coastline of Los Angeles County," Los Angeles County fire Capt. Sam Padilla said. "The impact of this event has the potential of lasting 10-12 hours, beginning at 8 a.m."

Padilla advised people in the tsunami advisory coastal areas to move out of the water and stay off the beach. And those in harbors and marinas should follow Coast Guard and harbor master recommendations. However, no evacuations along the coastline are expected, Padilla said.

Beaches and the pier were closed. Some schools were closed near the coast in Orange County, but no coastal flooding was expected, Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said.

Currents may be hazardous to swimmers, boats and coastal structures and may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival.

Officials urged people to stay clear of beaches as a precaution.