SAN FRANCISCO (CBS NEWS) — Could a tsunami similar to the one that devastated Japan five years ago this week wreak the same kind of havoc along our northern Pacific Coast? Unfortunately, the experts say it’s just a matter of time.

In March 2011 the world watched in awe and horror as a colossal tsunami ravaged eastern Japan — the result of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake.

Entire cities were washed away; millions were stranded without power or water. 15,000 died.

It was an otherworldy event that happened thousands of miles away. Thank goodness, many Americans thought, it couldn’t happen here.

But it could happen here.

In fact, scientists say it’s a question of when — not IF — a devastating earthquake, followed by a huge tsunami, strikes the continental United States, right in the Pacific Northwest.

For the full story, read more on CBS News.

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