Most of the tsunamis observed in California have been small, causing a slight rise in water levels in coastal areas and little damage. But whether they're generated by local or distant sources, such as earthquakes in the Alaska Subduction Zone, tsunamis have led to deaths and destruction in the state's waterfront communities.
Below, a look at some of the state's historic tsunamis.
Jan. 26, 1700: There are no written records, but scientists have reconstructed the event using geologic evidence, oral histories and Japanese documents that describe waves along that country's coast later in the day. A strong quake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which stretches from Cape Mendocino to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, likely generated a 50-foot tsunami in Northern California.
Dec. 21, 1812: Low lying areas of Santa Barbara and Ventura were flooded and damage was reported to nearby ships due to powerful waves. Researchers have theorized that a landslide triggered by an earthquake caused the tsunami.
April 1, 1946: A quake in the Alaska Subduction Zone generated this tsunami, which caused flooding about 1,000 feet inland in Half Moon Bay on California's Central Coast.
March 28, 1964: The West Coast's most devastating tsunami on record was generated by a deadly magnitude-9.2 quake off Alaska. It caused powerful waves that slammed coastal areas, including the Northern California community of Crescent City, where 11 people were killed. A surge about 20-feet high flooded nearly 30 city blocks, according to the Department of Conservation. A total of more than 100 people in the tsunami zone, from Alaska and down the Pacific coasts of Canada and the United States, were killed.
March 11, 2011: Although not nearly as destructive as the 1964 tsunami, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake in the Tohoku region of Japan led strong tsunami currents that damaged harbors along California's coast. One death was reported in connection with the tsunami. The worst damage was in Crescent City and Santa Cruz.