So where is the good news among all the property damage we are witnessing at the harbor? The good news is that there was only one life lost and that was because he did not have the advantage of living in our area and being exposed to the extensive tsunami education that we as a community have had.
Yes, it could have been worse, a lot worse. When you compare the tsunami of 1964 to this event, a lot has changed. On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, there were just a few outlets for local information: the two local radio stations, KPOD and KPLY, and the two newspapers, The Triplicate and the Crescent City American. The two radio stations received their information from the outside world via the Associated Press phone lines into the station.
When the 1964 earthquake hit Alaska at 7:30 in the evening the first
word that KPLY got was three hours after the event at 10:30 p.m.
Contrast that with today. The information about the earthquake and
possible tsunami was available almost immediately via every news outlet
you can think of, radio and TV through the emergency action notification
system, internet, social media and our unique method of warning our
people of an emergency situation: the sirens located at various
locations in Del Norte County.
Forty-six years ago, when both radio stations broadcast the
information that Crescent City could experience a tsunami, it gave many
people the excuse to go to the harbor area to watch the wave come in, as
they had done so often before. Today we know better. When the sirens
sounded on Friday before dawn, Crescent City residents knew this was no
weekly test. We knew it was the real thing. Having practiced a real
evacuation from the tsunami zone less than a year ago we knew it was
time to evacuate.
Unlike 1964 when the phone lines went dead after the first wave and
people had no way to find out what was happening, when townspeople heard
the siren on Friday, they could turn to the various national news
outlets to get the big picture, then they could turn on their radio to
find out what was happening locally. It didn't matter if they tuned in
KCRE-FM, KPOD-FM or KPOD-AM, they got the same information via
simulcast. If people did not have a radio, they could get information
from the Internet and listen to the live radio broadcast on their
If they did not have a way to get the live broadcast from the
internet, they could get the latest printed story from the Daily
Triplicate's Internet site, triplicate.
com. The Sheriff's Department assigned deputy Bill Stevens an
information officer, making sure the public got the information it
needed when they needed it. Later on in the morning, people could even
find pictures of the destruction right on their computer.
We all know practice makes perfect and being prepared beats being
sorry. The events of last Friday proved it. Those people who were
evacuated knew exactly what to do and where to go. Many went to stay
with friends and family living outside of the tsunami evacuation zone.
Others went to shelters where the Red Cross and other volunteers were
ready for them. Katie and I were fortunate to have evacuated friends in
for six hours. We watched TV, listened to local radio, tuned to the
computer for other information and, best of all, we heard from friends
and relatives, from every part of the country, wondering if we were OK.
It's worth noting that things could have turned out a lot
differently. Sure, many of our citizens lost their boats and other
property which is sad, but things are replaceable. People are not. Our
emergency personnel did exactly what they are trained to do. Our
volunteer organizations sprang into action and made sure those being
evacuated were well cared for, and best of all, citizens took this event
very seriously and evacuated the tsunami zone without question or
It makes me proud to say that I live in our tsunami-ready community.
Bob Berkowitz is a Crescent City resident and the former owner of