Coastal Voices: One couple’s tsunami sojourn


My doorbell rang at 4:41 Friday morning, followed by a loud pounding at my door.

I thought I was dreaming.

I stumbled out of bed, and in my loudest and raspiest morning voice, I managed to utter, "Who's there"? The return voice identified himself as a Crescent City police officer. I cautiously creaked open my front door to see it was, indeed, a uniformed Crescent City policeman.

"Good grief," I thought to myself. What dreadful news is this law enforcement messenger going to deliver to me? A thousand bad thoughts shot through my brain as I awaited his response. He advised me there is an ongoing tsunami alert and warned me there was a voluntary evacuation of all coastal areas. Relieved by the somewhat somber news, I thanked him for letting me know of the conditions, returned to the bedroom to tell my wife Angela that we needed to prepare to leave the house and act on the side of caution before this first tsunami surge arrived.

We live right on the ocean in arguably one of the most magnificent

locations on the West Coast. A gently-sloping trail from our backyard

takes us to the beach where it is currently a low tide. Nonetheless, the

ocean is not to be taken for granted or underestimated, so we prepared

to leave not knowing when we would be permitted to return.

Family began calling us immediately and we advised them all was

well in Crescent City and not to worry about us. Pat and Roy Bieber

invited us to their home to sit out the tsunami warning. We gratefully

accepted their invitation.

Our first hint this adventure might be more of an ordeal than we'd

not bargained for was breakfast. After packing the dog (and cat) into

the truck, we headed up to the Hiouchi Cafandeacute;. The place was mobbed. This

great little cafandeacute; which serves up some of the best breakfasts anywhere

I've ever eaten resembled a Greyhound bus station. After a short wait, I

found a seat at the counter and a mature gentleman (that's a kind way

of saying someone older than me) named Floyd offered his seat to me. I

politely declined. He insisted on telling me he was at the cafandeacute; since 5

a.m. and he didn't wish to be seated. I thanked him as he positioned

himself behind me, and Angela and I shared breakfast. The morning was

still feeling like a great adventure as we chatted with other patrons,

including, Floyd.

We left Hiouchi Cafe heading over to the Biebers' home near Del

Norte High School.

I was following all the news with Rene and Chuck on KPOD-FM and I

learned the first surge of waves from the quake had arrived and its

effects were fairly minimal. Good news, I thought, we'll be home, soon.

Before arriving at the Biebers' home, we headed back toward our

home and observed the coordinated efforts of the emergency personnel.

The agencies had been planning for this event for decades and they knew

exactly what they were doing. All streets from U.S. Highway 101 to the

ocean were cordoned off. No one was going to get back into the

restricted low-lying coastal areas. So, we parked ourselves at Brother

Jonathan Park at 9th street, right on the ocean.

I observed Mother Nature in action as the ocean slowly retreated,

exposing areas of the beach heretofore not ever seen. I was awestruck

from my observation point as I watched the beach area expandandhellip; and

continue to increase. Within minutes, the waves returned. Wave after

wave after wave began to move east-southerly, toward the shore, pounding

the base of the cliff.

I contemplated the status of our home and wondered if our home was

positioned high enough and far enough back to avoid the unforgiving and

unrelenting Pacific Ocean.

Then, some relief. The ocean began to settle down and conditions

returned to normal, whatever that meant. I noticed a fellow teacher at

the cliff location where we were standing and shared some thoughts about

the day's events. Again, I was hopeful; we would be back at our home

in short order. No andhellip; it was just then another series of surges and


The news arrived of devastation at Crescent City Harbor. I also

learned a man had been swept away to his apparent death at the mouth of

the Klamath.

Angela and I headed over to the Biebers' and spent the rest of the

morning and better part of the afternoon at their home "listening" to

the television as it broadcast vital news over KPOD/KCRE. Later that

afternoon we departed, thought we might slip under the radar and get

back to our home. No chance andhellip; the law enforcement agencies continued to

keep the area secure until free of danger.

Back to Brother Jonathan Park. Another round of tsunami surges

undulating onto the shore. No re-entry would be permitted to the tsunami

zone anytime in the immediate future, I thought.

Dinner plans at our home with Bruce and Suzie Barber, Adam and Tami

Trask were changed to the Barbers' home in Gasquet.

Back up the hill we traveled, Angela and I, our Yorkie terrier

Bailey and cat Isabelle. When we arrived, we learned the tsunami zone

would be open by 6:30pm.

What a relief to hear that news!

After a great spaghetti dinner at the Barbers', I couldn't wait to

go home, feed the dog and cat, and survey the damage, if any.

By 9:30, we were home-sweet-home. Our house had not been swept

away, there was no damage. One cannot imagine the relief that overcame

me. As I walked down the trail to the beach, I took note of how high

the water level had reached and determined the highest of the high tides

with the push to of the tsunami had reached the first step of the

25-foot trail, leading to our backyard. Wow! We dodged a bullet. The

harbor was not so lucky.

Saturday morning, and I can't belive it. The Triplicate produced a

newspaper of yesterday's news. How did they do that? Preparation, I


The high tide was moving toward an 11 a.m. low tide. I took a walk

with my binoculars toward the B street Pier and was humbled but what I

observed. The harbor was no more.

I realized I needed to do something. I enjoyed good luck but others

were no so fortunate. I needed to help and I would. Crescent City is

in a world of hurt, right now

I am asking any and all who read this to please help our town. Pull

out your check book and write as generous a contribution to the City of

Crescent City, attention:

Harbor Relief Fund,

377 J St., Crescent City, CA. 95531.

I am going to do exactly that right now.

Roger Gitlin moved to Crescent City about six months ago.

The Del Norte Triplicate
This image is copyrighted.

Crescent City autos, jobs, real estate and merchandise.

Ads appear Online and in Print

View Classifieds

Connect with The Del Norte Triplicate

Triplicate Newsstand

Tuesday October 25, 2016

Read digital interactive editions of our publications

Read Today's Edition Take A Tour
View All Publications