The 7.0-magnitude quake struck about 80 miles southwest of Crescent City at about 7:50 p.m. PDT, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Web site.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, issued the bulletin about 10 minutes later, saying that while no Pacific-wide threat existed, "earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located with 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the earthquake epicenter. Authorities in the region of the epicenter should be aware of this possibility and take appropriate action."
The center later canceled the warning in Northern California, adding that there was no tsunami threat to other areas of the Pacific.
Many Northern California residents learned of the tsunami warning through automatic bulletins broadcast by their cable TV providers.
KCBS radio reported that residents had been evacuated from low-lying areas of coastal Crescent City, which was struck by a tsunami after an earthquake 41 years ago.
On March 27, 1964, a magnitude-9.2 quake in Alaska generated tsunamis that killed 11 people and destroyed 29 city blocks in Crescent City. Tsunamis generated by that quake killed more than 120 people in Alaska, Oregon and California.
Geologists say an early-warning system could have saved thousands of lives from the 30-foot waves that killed hundreds of thousands in Indonesia in December 2004.