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What Caused A Tsunami To Strike New Jersey?

BARNEGAT LIGHT, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Scientists have launched an investigation into a rare occurrence along the New Jersey coast – a tsunami.

As CBS 2's Christine Sloan reported Tuesday, the tsunami-like wave crashed into a rock jetty on Long Beach Island in Barnegat Light, N.J., on June 13. The wave knocked several people on the jetty into the water.

Brian Coen said he was on a boat nearby at the time, and found himself in the middle of the strange phenomenon.

"I noticed that this wave just wasn't backing off, so it continued to break until the whole mouth of the inlet was one white, white water," Coen said. "My first thought was to get boat away from the rocks and then get forward momentum to punching through it."

The wave crashed onto the jetty as a storm was moving in. Coen said it started with two small waves, followed by a large one about 6 feet high.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center confirmed that it was, in fact, a rare kind of tsunami.

"It looks like this one was at least partially generated by meteorological or weather effects and, so we use the term meteotsunami for cases like that," said Paul Whitmore, director of the Alaska-based warning center.

Scientists said tsunamis like the tragic one that struck Japan in 2011 are usually generated by a sudden influx of seawater triggered by an earthquake or an underwater landslide.

In this case, the tsunami was spurred from above, and thus, no tsunami warning was sent out.

"In 34 years, I have never heard of a tsunami on LBI before," said Nancy Kennelly of Long Beach Island.

Two of Coen's friends were off the boat spear fishing when the tsunami-type wave hit. It was so powerful two people got swept off of the rock jetty into the water.

"The boys got swept across the jetty on to the Island Beach side, and after the wave, I went to get them and then they were in the middle of inlet -- very rare," Coen said.

Thankfully, everyone survived with non-life-threatening injuries. But a father who jumped into the water to save his son was still recovering this week from broken bones.

Meanwhile, scientists continued to investigate to determine whether a shifting at the continental shelf east of New Jersey could have played a role in the strange occurrence.

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