A multi-agency cleanup effort continued at the Crescent City harbor Sunday, as teams of officials and dozens of personnel worked to mitigate the damage left behind from last Friday's tsunami.
Strong winds and high swells prompted delays for further damage assessment, while crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Game, Crescent City Harbor District personnel, Army Corps of Engineers and multiple oil response organizations were in waiting mode on scene. The National Weather Service, meanwhile, is forecasting rainfall in the area for much of the week.
”We've suspended our water operations due to storm surge. It's just unsafe to be out there right now,” said Alexia Retallack, spokeswoman for the Department of Fish and Game. With steady rain and winds gusting up to 50 knots on Sunday, Retallack said it's unclear when divers will be able to enter the harbor and survey the number of sunken boats, a figure officials fear could be in the dozens.
”It's all weather dependent,” Retallack said, adding that personnel are expected to remain in the area through the end of the week. “Obviously, we want to get in as soon as we can.”
At least 48 vessels sustained damage and were afloat Sunday, while officials have confirmed 11 sunken vessels in the harbor and another boat grounded at the mouth of the Elk River, some 75 miles south of Crescent City. Debris from the harbor -- including buoys, styrofoam chunks of dock, wood pilings and trash from sunken boats -- remains scattered around the harbor and the nearby shoreline, including Pebble and South beaches.
Officials have not released an estimate of the amount of fuel that leaked into the water, a figure based on the hundreds or possibly thousands of gallons that each sunken boat can carry.
Harbor access is restricted to the public and closed completely at night. Commercial fishermen, meanwhile, are being advised not to run circulation pumps in the harbor and to refrain from pulling crab pots from the water where there is a visible oil sheen.
People are encouraged to heed all beach warnings and, even though the tsunami was canceled, to avoid low-lying areas with rocks and jetties during inclement weather.
Officials will also hold a town hall meeting tonight to discuss response efforts with fishermen and community members.
The Department of Fish and Game has activated the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) to help monitor and recover oiled wildlife. The public is asked not to attempt to rescue oiled animals, but instead report them to OWCN at 877-823-6926.