The anniversary of the tsunami that destroyed much of Crescent City on March 27, 1964, will be commemorated next week with a test of local tsunami warning systems, conducted by several emergency service providers.
On Wednesday between 11 a.m. and noon, the state, the National Weather Service, Crescent City and Del Norte County will test their ability to issue a tsunami warning to the residents of the city.
According to a social media post by the National Weather Service in Eureka, “This test is designed to check over the communications system for a tsunami coming from far away (such as Alaska or Japan). The natural alert of a strong earthquake is your warning for a tsunami coming from nearby.”
County CAO Jay Sarina said the exercise will test several aspects of the warning system, interrupting television and radio, as well as appearing on highway reader boards, social media, some smart phones, and by text.
“Of course, it will have the message that it’s only a test,” Sarina said, noting that the city’s outdoor sirens will also activate.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) emergency radios will also be activated.
Some cable and satellite television providers will not be able to display the warning text.
Sarina said once the test is complete, officials will then evaluate the data to determine what areas worked well and which need improvement.
When the test is over, residents are asked to provide feedback to NOAA at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about preparing for earthquakes, tsunamis or any other disasters on the North Coast at http://humboldt.edu/shakyground
In recent weeks, Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore has given several presentations to local leaders about the pending sister city agreement with Rikuzentakata, Japan, which was almost destroyed by the Tohoku quake and tsunami in 2011. Inscore’s presentations highlighted “tsunami tendenko,” the principle that in the event of a tsunami, everyone is responsible for their own life.
By phone Wednesday, Sarina seconded the sentiment, saying that would be the case in a nearshore quake.
“If you feel shaking, you’re on your own, get out of there,” he said.
Sarina called it human nature that people tend to be complacent about emergency planning after experiencing long durations without an emergency.
“We need to have people understanding what they need to do,” he said.
During his presentations, Inscore stressed the need to re-educate children in Crescent City about what to do in the threat of a tsunami. He noted that in the City of Kamaiche, just north of Rikuzentakata, a teacher at a local school urged officials there to restore teaching tsunami tendenko five years before.
“He said, ‘We need to get serious about this principle again. We have become complacent,’” Inscore told city council. “As a result, of their 3,000 students, only a couple of students lost their lives, because they had focused on the education component of what to do when disaster arrives; not if — when disaster comes. We may not have five years, we all understand that. For those who wonder why I have become so passionate... I want us to be prepared.”
A good week to learn
At its last meeting, Crescent City Council proclaimed March 26-30 as “Tsunami Preparedness Week.”
“California’s long coastline, its proximity to other coastal states with offshore earthquake faults, and its location on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ make it vulnerable to tsunamis; and California has been struck by more than two dozen tsunamis with waves three or more feet in height since 1812, including fifteen that caused damage including devastating Crescent City Harbor on March 11, 2011,” the proclamation reads. “A dozen residents of Crescent City, California, were killed by the tsunami generated by the 1964 Alaska earthquake; and tsunamis caused by underwater earthquakes and landslides can occur any time and with little warning.”
For more information, go to https://www.ready.gov/tsunamis or visit the Del Norte Office of Emergency Services’ Facebook page.