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Special report: It's not 'if,' it's 'when' ...

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

No one can predict when the earth will shake. After Nov. 15, however, it's pretty certain where the waves will come.

Geologists who have combed Del Norte and Humboldt counties for clues to past tsunamis have found evidence that they have run-up as far as the farthest point of Lagoon Creek.

Core samples taken from those areas show seven sand deposits left behind by tsunamis presumed to have been generated when the Cascadia Subduction Zone resettled itself. The samples date back 2,500 years.

Japanese historical records note a tsunami that came from a Cascadia quake in 1700.

Local Native American history reaches back at least as far. Staff at Redwood National and State Parks have incorporated portions of the Tolowa and Yurok oral histories into their presentations, said Vicki Ozaki, a geologist at the park and member of Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group.

Her job includes bringing the Redwood parks to tsunami-prepared status.

Orick and other at-risk communities she wants to help attain ed "Tsunami Ready" status.

Part of her presentation is stressing the need to have at least a 72-hour kit at all times, one with a flashlight in it.

"It's modeled after hurricane preparedness," Ozaki said. "... if you know what to do, you will survive."

Similar efforts have been underway this year in the Klamath area. One of the 12 deaths that happened during the 1964 tsunami was a fisherman lost at the mouth of the Klamath River.

At present, Crescent City is the only Tsunami Ready-designated city on the Pacific Coast.

In spite of its designation, however, some of Crescent City's residents don't know enough about what to do – and more importantly, what not to do – when a tsunami watch or warning occurs.

Neither do fellow Californians, according to the state Seismic Safety Commission. After a tsunami warning and evacuation here June 14, 2005, the commission formed a Tsunami Safety Committee to evaluate the state of tsunami readiness statewide.

Its findings showed myriad problems, but it was the lack of consistent public education that most stood out here Nov. 15.

Extra emergency personnel were dispatched to Crescent City Harbor the afternoon that a series of tsunami waves broke docks like matchsticks, beached a sailboat on top of a dock and caused damage initially estimated at $1.1 million.

A steady stream of gawkers drove through the harbor area to get a first-hand look at goings on there. Had the event been more serious, they likely would have impeded a coordinated response.

People cannot outrun a tsunami, as was evident Dec. 26, 2004, in resort towns along Thailand's beach areas. Tourists' cameras captured for the world video of those who had gone to the beach and been swept up by tsunami waves.

"We will win the battle of education, but it takes a concerted effort, it was a sustained effort that won the battle against throwing trash out car windows," said Troy Nicolini of the National Weather Service's Eureka office. The last message against littering was broadcast 20 years ago; we can do the same with tsunamis."

Among the changes planned following the Nov. 15 tsunami that struck Crescent City is a public awareness campaign to bring residents and visitors up to speed about how to stay alive during the next tsunami.


Emergency kit

For either an earthquake or a tsunami, prepare in advance by assembling emergency kits with at least a 3-day supply for each family member. The kit should include:

•A first aid kit and reference guide

•Water, about 1 gallon per person per day, for drinking, hygiene and cooking

•Food, packaged, canned, no-cook, as well as baby food and food for special diets

•Can opener, non electric

•Blankets or sleeping bags

•Fire extinguisher

•Essential medications


•Food and water for pets

•Portable radio, including NOAA weather radio



•Alternate cooking source and matches

•Heavy gloves

•sturdy shoes

•Crescent wrench for utility shut off


Del Norte Triplicate:

312 H Street
P.O. Box 277
Crescent City, CA 95531

(707) 464-2141

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