Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Supes Mull Tsunami Preparedness

Folks in the know have been getting the Board of Supervisors up to speed on what's being done and what needs to be done to warn people about impending tsunamis. This is a good thing.

Looks like there are plans for signs along roads in tsunami zones to let people know of the potential danger and what to do if a tsunami might possibly be on its way. I have to wonder about the main message, though. To paraphrase: If you feel strong earth shaking [or hear the tsunami warning sirens], head to higher ground...

I suppose there's nothing really wrong with that but there's something I've heard about tsunamis that often gets ignored.
Seems to me in most of the stories I've heard there's something even more common than just the earth shaking, and sometimes the earth doesn't shake at all: The water level of the ocean drops real fast right before a tsunami hits.

I would think that would be an even more important thing to point out since tsunamis can often strike thousands of miles away from the earthquake that spawned them.

I remember watching a T.V. show a while back about the tsunami that struck Hilo, Hawaii back in the 60s(?). They had some gal on the show that was a school kid when it happened.
She was saying it was during a break and the kids were out by the beach.

All of the sudden, the water started receding, eventually emptying out the tidepools, and fish were flopping around on the rocks and sand. The teacher points out all the stranded fish to the kids and tells the kids to go grab the fish.

You can imagine what happened shortly thereafter when the water came back with a vengeance.

The Times- Standard article points out towards the end that, during the 2004 Sumatra tsunami, the inhabitants of one island survived pretty much intact- at least the people did- because they had a tradition of seeking higher ground after earthquakes.

I read a similar story right after that quake and it said it wasn't necessarily the ground shaking that would get villagers fleeing to higher ground, but the water receding, which was what happened during that quake.

It was wisdom passed through the generations that, if the ocean levels drop real fast, head for the hills. Why this wisdom seems to be unique to that island only is beyond me.

Years ago, a retired Eureka Police officer, Pete Davenport, was telling me he was down by the waterfront during the '64 tsunami in Crescent City. He said he'd never seen the water level in Humboldt Bay drop so fast before. Luckily, we didn't get hit by the tsunami or, if we did, it was too small to be of significance.

Funny I don't recall hearing about the water level dropping in Crescent City Harbor before their last tsunami. I wonder if it did and maybe that wasn't mentioned as is often the case?

I think that's the thing people need to keep in mind when in coastal areas: If the water level seems to go down real fast, get the hell out of there. Then again, I suppose feeling the earth shake, especially for an extended period, should be a warning as well.

I'd like to think people can keep both warnings in the back of their minds. Let's hope so. Any proposed sign ideas I've seen never say anything about the water levels dropping.


At 9:15 AM, Blogger Carol said...

Hi Fred!

Greg and I attended one of the Red Cross tsunami workshops held in Ferndale last year. Loleta had an emergency preparedness workshop a couple of months ago, too. I recommend everyone attend one of these workshops. In Ferndale, Red Cross was on hand to tell folks how to make an emergency kit to keep on hand in your car and to keep one at home. Lori Dengler (I could listen to her talk for hours and wish I had majored in geology rather than music) gave a great talk with slides from different tsunami scenarios and had soil samples form the 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami.

As I recall during the 1992 earthquakes, the coast had risen a meter between Cape Town and Petrolia. It was discovered by the stench of decaying sea life by passersby’s. And as recall the Eel valley floor dropped around a meter around Rio Dell.

Last year we took family for a tour of the Eel River Delta with river guide and Sheriff’s posse member, Bruce Slocum. Bruce is an expert regarding the delta and explains and shows how and where the 1906 earthquake caused the valley floor to drop. His tour is $20/person and he can fit up to 6 people in his boat. It is well worth it.

Absolutely, people should seek higher ground if the tide goes out suddenly. There could be an earthquake somewhere else on the Pacific rim that we would not feel.

There are places on the planet that have dramatic tides. One such place is the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. My parents took us there when we were kids and it has 40 foot tides. It is quite a spectacular site

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Carol said...

Also, there usually is an excellent display booth at the Humboldt County Fair each year regarding earthquakes and tsunamis.

There is a coastal tsunami zone map readily available, too.

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Rose said...

Good points, Carol.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Carol said...

Thank you, Rose! And I do highly recommended Bruce's river tour. His number is in the Ferndale section of the phonebok. If you go, dress warm!

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Derchoadus said...

You don't mean Ol' 'Yard O' Meat' Pete, eh?

Here's the link to the Tsunami Maps


Post a Comment

<< Home