Coastal Voices: A tsunami-ready community


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


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