Why is Crescent City Continental America’s Tsunami Capital?

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Crescent City. Getty Images.

California has already felt the impact of the earthquake in Japan and its subsequent tsunami as waves hit the West Coast, sweeping people out to sea (one man is still missing) and causing millions of dollars in damage. Crescent City is expected to bear the brunt of the damage, but this won’t be the first time the town has faced a tsunami.

Or the second, third or even tenth time. The logging and fishing town in northern California has faced a staggering 31 tsunamis since 1933. That’s right — 31. In 1964, the most destructive tsunami to ever hit the U.S., caused by the Good Friday Earthquake in Alaska, killed 11 people in Crescent City.

(More on TIME.com: See ways you can help the victims of the quake)

So just why is this town so susceptible to tsunami calamity? Slate’s Timothy Noah breaks it down as follows:

“Apparently the main culprit is the Mendocino Fracture Zone, an underwater elevation extending westward that guides tsunamis into deeper water, where they pick up speed as they approach the mainland. The West Coast’s topography around Crescent City curves inland, which intensifies a tsunami’s effect, and the shoreline of Crescent City itself is (as the name suggests) a curve within that curve.” (via Slate)

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