Delegations of Sister City visitors from Otsuchi, Japan, have been out and about in Del Norte County this week, mostly visiting schools and educational programs.
The full delegation is made up of teachers, students and public officials who have been attending separate events around the county.
Deputy Mayor Masayuki Okamoto and Rikuzentakata Senior Executive Advisor Kiyoshi Murakami joined Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore, Del Norte County Supervisor Chris Howard and representatives from the Redwood Coast Tsunami Working group Thursday at the Yurok Tribal Office in Klamath for a discussion and presentations.
Humboldt State University Geology Professor Lori Dengler explained the working group is a unique organization, created in 1996,
Dengler apologized that some federal partners were not able to attend, due to the government shutdown. The group contains representatives from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the California Geological Survey, the Red Cross, County OES, the Humboldt Transit Authority, Humboldt State University, Blue Lakes Rancheria and other agencies.
Dengler said the group provides exhibits at local fairs, tests tsunami warning systems with live and simulated tests, and the Great Shakeout Drill.
“The reason for this group was because of an earthquake and a study that came out in 1995,” she said. “In 1992, we had an earthquake in Humboldt County. It was only a 7.2, but it produced a small, local tsunami that made everybody aware of our local or near source tsunami threat.”
Dengler said prior to that quake, researchers were aware tsunamis could come from other areas of the Pacific but weren’t as aware of the local threat. She said the the last locally-generated tsunami occurred in 1700. She said that information only came to light when Japanese researchers were studying historic quakes and found a tsunami that damaged Japan was generated here.
Crescent City Manager Eric Wier recalled a June trip to Rikuzentakata, noting many similarities between it and Crescent City. He said lessons learned from seeing Japan’s response to, and recovery from the tsunami was invaluable.
Howard said Japan has done a lot of outreach in the last year, in regards to emergency services and preparedness.
He said he and others will be in Sacramento on Monday to meet with representatives from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to promote policies around emergency services.
“We hope that, with the efforts of the Japanese Consulate on Monday, and the efforts of our community, Crescent City and Del Norte County, that these discussions can thrust forward rapidly in helping to prepare our communities,” Howard said.
Inscore addressed the group, saying, “The work that you have been doing and continue to do is of utmost importance, not only to our communities but to the world because the world notices. As I said at the United Nations and I will keep saying, this is not a United States issue, it’s not a county issue, this is a people issue. We do what we do, I hope, because of people. Not because of a nation but because we all represent people, lives that we hope to make sure we preserve by quality education, making sure people know how important this topic is.”
Inscore thanked the working group for its work.
Murakami said it has been important to the people of Rikuzentakata to share their experiences with others, along with the lessons learned.
“It’s very critical how we react and how we behave in a time of emergency or crisis,” he said.
Okamoto said with the Sister City agreements in place, it creates new opportunities for each city.
“I really want to keep sharing our experiences,” he said, with Murakami translating. “What we learned in 2011 was that whatever the risks, we really needed to escape, and evacuate as soon as possible.” He said another lesson what that while systems and hardware are in place to protect citizens, it may not be enough.
Humboldt County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Instructor Linda Nellist explained the role of CERT in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.
“The training is provided because we do have so many disasters in our region, like earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, winter storms,” she said. “So the goal is to train individuals in their homes and in their neighborhoods so they can take appropriate action, as well as provide services needed at the time of an emergency.”
She said CERT members can also become members of teams that affiliate with and expand the resources of emergency first responders.
Jason Patton, an adjunct professor at HSU’s Department of Geology, gave a visual presentation explaining how tsunamis happen and some of the reasons the recent tsunami in Indonesia may not have been detected in time to give adequate warning to people there. He said while there were recorded slides on land near the ocean when nearby volcanoes erupted there could have been more below the surface, which displaced the water, causing the tsunami.
“There is some evidence that the seafloor changed its shape,” he said. He later noted early warning tsunami systems could work in some scenarios if tsunami sensors were integrated into tide sensors. After a couple hours of discussion, they also toured the Crescent City’s Emergency Operations Center in the Washington Boulevard firehouse and later, reconvened with other groups at a welcome ceremony in the Cultural Center.
More information about the work group can be found at http://www2.humboldt.edu/rctwg/