Tsunami Roadshow returns to Chimacum this Friday

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 4/10/18

After a number of locals were woken up in the middle of the night by news of a possible tsunami Jan. 23, the Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management is anticipating its second annual …

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Tsunami Roadshow returns to Chimacum this Friday

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After a number of locals were woken up in the middle of the night by news of a possible tsunami Jan. 23, the Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management is anticipating its second annual “Tsunami Roadshow” to have another large turnout.

The roadshow, planned for April 13 at Chimacum High School, should draw at least as many attendees as the 2017 awareness event did, officials said.

Last year, more than 300 residents gathered at Chimacum High School for a similar presentation, and Todd Morrison, public information officer for the Department of Emergency Management, estimated this year’s presentation, at 6:30 p.m. in the CHS auditorium, 91 West Valley Road in Chimacum, could draw as many as 350 attendees.

“Last year focused a lot on the dynamics of tsunamis, down to the scientific details,” Morrison said. “We explored the models for calculating tsunamis, the times it would take for them to reach us, and the sizes they would be by the time they did.”

This year’s meeting will have a different focus, Morrison said.

“We’ll spend more time clarifying the differences between near-source tsunamis, which could come from the southern Whidbey Island fault, versus distant-source tsunamis, like what was anticipated from Alaska earlier this year.”

Department of Emergency Management Director Lynn Sterbenz confirmed this year’s presentation would offer new and updated topics specific to Jefferson County and the Olympic Peninsula. She deemed the Tsunami Roadshow “especially timely, considering the Jan. 23 event.”

News broke Jan. 23 that an earthquake, initially reported as a magnitude 8.0, had struck 175 miles southeast of Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska at a depth of 6 miles at 12:31 a.m. local time. The report prompted a tsunami warning, forcing people in Alaska to flee to higher ground in the middle of the night.

More importantly for Morrison and other emergency personnel in East Jefferson County, the National Tsunami Warning Center predicted the first wave could reach our shores before 6 a.m.

In the end, what had been a tsunami advisory for the coastal regions of Washington, Oregon and California, including the Puget Sound region, was downgraded to a tsunami watch, and then called off altogether.

“Given how events unfolded, we think it’s even more imperative to help people understand the difference in tsunami alert levels, near-source versus distant-source tsunamis, when tsunami sirens are activated and the advantages of being signed up for local alerting systems as well as owning a (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather alert radio,” said Keily Yemm, the tsunami program coordinator for the Emergency Management Division of the Washington State Military Department.

Morrison described the warnings as a potential to be “a scary prospect.”

“I knew folks who were in tears because they didn’t know what to do,” Morrison said. “The reality is, we need to make earthquake and tsunami preparations part of our culture, and work past our fear of such scenarios, because they remain a very real possibility, so we need to prepare for what might happen.”

This includes developing escape plans, for both the home and workplace, to get to higher ground, as well as figuring out how to contact loved ones if such a disaster occurs when a person is out of the area, but their loved ones are not.

“If you’re a business in town, you need to develop a continuity operations plan, because we will need you to be in business after the disaster is done,” said Morrison, who acknowledged that downtown buildings are “a bad place to be in a tsunami, so see if you can move your operations uphill, or have your employees work from home.”

Morrison recommended businesses shift their clerical and administrative functions onto “the cloud” online as much as possible.

“Whether it’s your payroll or your contacts, it helps to have that data stored digitally,” Morrison said. “And you don’t want it all sitting in a server that might be underwater if and when a tsunami hits.”

Officials from the Emergency Management Division expect to be joined by the Washington Geological Survey, National Weather Service, University of Washington/Sea Grant and Pacific County Emergency Management officials during the two-hour presentation, which includes time for questions.

The Department of Emergency Management, along with local emergency preparedness groups, plans to have information tables in the foyer before and after the event.

Preregistration is encouraged. Attendees might receive follow-up tsunami information, as well as a survey to review the event after it has taken place. Attendees who pre-register online are set to be entered to win one of two NOAA all-hazard alert weather radios.

To register, go to eventbrite.com and search for “Tsunami Roadshow.”

More information about the Tsunami Roadshow presenters and topics can be found at:

mil.wa.gov/tsunami and

jeffcoeoc.org.

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