Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us
by Dave Robinson
Originally published September 12, 2013
Every city on the Oregon Coast has a tsunami warning system in place. Officials in coastal communities have taken the threat of earthquake/tsunami seriously enough to create evacuation routes and a warning system designed to minimize casualties. Those little signs point the way to higher ground and safety from an incoming tsunami. I’m always mildly amused by the sign that says, “Leaving Tsunami Zone.” How do they know? What if that sucker is two feet higher, or ten feet higher than their signpost? Now I’m not privy to all of the scientific planning that went in to marking the zone, but I’m assuming that their data is solid and was attained through sound processes. Just to be on the safe side, if I’m on the way out, running from a tsunami, I’m not stopping at that sign!
Another thing not mentioned on the “evacuation route” signs is that if the anticipated earthquake is as severe as many think it will be, there is no way we can jump in our cars and simply drive our way to high ground. Streets will be broken, bridges impassable, building debris is likely to cover the road, power poles and power lines will block streets and trees are apt to have fallen in inconvenient places. More and more I’m hearing that folks are being instructed to “walk” to higher ground. I’m thinking “run” is more like it, but some of us don’t run much anymore. Not for very far anyway.
Also if you’re on the beach or at sea level and you feel the shaking of a quake, don’t wait for the siren. That shaking is likely the only warning you will get. Computer simulations have demonstrated that on January 26, 1700, when the last Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake stuck our coast, it is estimated that there was a 20 to 30 minute time period before the initial tsunami wave hit. Geologic history has showed waves were at least as high as 30 feet and some believe much higher in places.
Another evacuation tactic is also being suggested: The concept of vertical evacuation. That is, finding a sturdy building at least three stories high and climbing to at least the third story. Again, if the building is higher, don't stop at the third floor.
Whatever you do, DO NOT head for the beach to watch the action. My friend Mongo, has an amazing webcam setup capable of capturing all the drama of a tsunami. Check out his website at www.bandon.tv. He updates the site daily, and there is always a webcam pointed toward the ocean. If you've ever had any inclination to ignore the above advice, just check out the videos on YouTube of the 2011 Japanese Tsunami. Hopefully you will be convinced to act accordingly.
As always, if you have questions or comments, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Dave Robinson is Bandon's Postmaster and has worked for the postal service for 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement, served in the Air Force in Vietnam, worked nine years for the Coos County Sheriff's Department, and serves on the Myrtle Point School Board, where he lives.
additional columns by Dave Robinson