Monday, April 7, 2008

West Coast Tsunami Warning

or... How Would Oregon Fare?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Back in June, as some of you may be aware we had a tsunami warning along the West Coast. We were listening to the scanner when it was first reported. It was interesting to watch and hear everything unfold.

Approximately 10 minutes after we heard it over the scanner, being announced to the authorities they got around to mentioning it on the local TV station. This was shortly after 8. The tsunami was expected to hit a certain area at 8:44. Around 8:30 we hear, on the scanner that the community up the road a piece had thought to contact FEMA for the low down. They were reporting back that the warning had been cancelled and we only needed to expect a small rise in the water level.

Somehow, word never got around to everyone else though...At 8:47 they announced, on the local TV station, that the tsunami would be hitting this area at 8:44.(Read that sentence again, I did not mix the two times up)

About 8:55 we listened on the scanner as they evacuated a campground (this would've been 10 minutes after it had supposedly hit) We listened as they advised people to head for higher ground. No other instructions were given (re evacuation routes, etc) Remember, this is a tourist area, and this was during tourist season. We do have visitors who don't have a clue, including those campers. According to 911 the majority of calls they were recieving were from folks wondering if they were in an at risk area, where should they go and what should they do? This was from folks who live here! You can only imagine the confusion tourists, unfamiliar with the area were experiencing!

Then we listened as the normally very calm in all situations dispatcher began to get nervous (remember, she still doesn't know the whole thing has been called off). Their landline was now effectively disabled, overrun by phone calls. Police, both on and off duty were asking what they could do to help.

A bit of a problem, the main way in and out of town, the evacuation route, the Bridge, was BLOCKED! All the people who had been told to evacuate, in addition to the curious had flocked to the bridge which was now a mere parking lot. Folks in the area had decided the bridge, the evacuation route, would be the perfect place to park bumper to bumper and, with their wide eyed children in tow, take a gander as the expected tsunami came in.(and yes, there are signs, clearly marking the evacuation route) Others actually gathered up their children and headed for the waterfront to watch! A neighbor down the road a piece from us was in town, on the other side of the bridge, attending a ball game. She had this to say, "Wouldn't have been able to get home to our higher ground due to that jam up on the bridge. What a bunch of nuts, if there was a tsunami, the bridge would be one of the first things to go"

Must've been about 9:15 they finally announced on TV that the tsunami warning was over, details at 11. Shortly after 11 they announced on the news that the bouy had detected a 1 inch wave.

This scene was repeated in some variation or another all up and down the West Coast. Listening to all of it here we didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

I'm thinking, in case it would actually happen I am glad we have a scanner so we get the warning at least 10 minutes earlier than everyone else, our home is higher than sea level and we live on the other side of the bridge with instant access to a road leading to even higher ground.

Am also thinking a bit more training and community education may be in order, not to mention, as in the gulf coast, a little coordination between agencies?

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