Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tsunamis do more than wave at Crescent City, CA

I Grew up in Wyoming, and the word Tsunami wasn't even in my vocabulary.  I had heard about Tidal waves of course, and earthquakes were a concern there on the edge of Yellowstone where my own cousins had barely escaped death in the Hebgen Lake earthquake on their wedding night.  The most impact that we felt from forces of nature were in the Blizzards that would bury us and the 100 mile an hour winds that were not rare.

When I married and moved to the Pacific Coast, on the OR/CA border it didn't take long to hear about tsunamis, but my main focus was delight that it rarely ever snowed and that the blistering heat of summer  was a thing of my past.  Sure there were signs halfway up the wall at the KFC saying Tsunami High water mark, and there were black and white pictures of jumbled docks and fires and shattered buildings in many businesses but this was 1989 and the tsunami landing and tsunmi lanes were named after things that happened when I was only a year old, 25 years before.

Then in 2004 the Indonesian Tsunami brought that word to world attention again, and the images in black and white were suddenly live, colorful, loud and beyond anything I had imagined.

Little tsunamis hit Crescent City frequently.  31 times they have been documented since 1933.  In 2007 one did $20 million dollars in damage to the harbor and the community began to get serious about being prepared for the next big one.  These evacuation maps were published and the community started practicing the live evacuation drills, holding one full scale evacuation last year.

I listened carefully to the instructions and made sure that our house was not in the evacuation zone.  I felt relieved to note that on the map just below we were about where the v lies in the word valley.  Safe I figured.  Of course, after hearing that the wave hit Japan and travelled over 6 miles inland, I'm not thinking my house is so safe anymore.

On Friday morning, March 11, 2011, just after midnight, my oldest son woke me by jiggling my foot, "Mom, There was just a huge earthquake in Japan and we are under Tsunami alert."  Ok, nothing new, I thought, why did you wake me up I thought,

 "Go back to bed" My husband murmured and we fell back into unconsciousness.  Then when the alarm rang I saw my phone lit up with messages from my brother in Virginia and My Mother in Wyoming asking if we were safe.  Then the school web site posted that all schools were cancelled and when I turned on the radio the evacuations had begun around 3 AM.

My boys fishing at small boat basin, Crescent City

KCRE & KPOD radio were amazing.  They stayed with the station all day, passing on information and letting people know what to do and where it was safe to go.  They kept a lot of people informed and out of the danger areas and the evacuation proceeded so smoothly thanks to them and all of our emergency services people like the CHP officers who were everywhere at once it seemed.

Del Norte High school and Smith River school were used to sheltered evacuees and other people headed up the hill to Hiouchi.

Sea lions on slip by Chartroom Restaurant

visitors always ignore the law about staying back from wild animals here but these guys move fast and have nasty teeth.

Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftan Tall Ships come here frequently

Commercial boat basin before the Tsunami

When the surges did start coming in at 8:30 AM, they were like flushing and refilling the commercial boat basin every 10 minutes for over 12 hours.  the docks shattered, boats sank or were sucked out to sea.  Those that escaped had no place to come back to and had to make their way up and down the coast to find a safe haven.

This community once had sawmills and logging but is now largely a fishing community, bringing in Dungeouness Crab, prawns and salmon, steelhead and halibut.  Some people live on their boats but many more made their living on their boats.

The Bountiful before the Tsunami, she is one of the few to survive.

Small boat marina

Commercial boat basin again.
crab pots in harbor
The harbor looking peaceful and sleepy wrapped in mist
the day after , the citizens Dock still standing.

Still we were lucky, one person died as a result of being washed out while taking pictures at the Klamath river, others that were washed to sea at Pistol river made it back.  One person died on a boat in the Brookings / Harbor harbor but that was determined to be un-related to the tsunami.

After Tsunami even the parking lot was scattered with asphalt, boulders, logs and a chunk of sidewalk was missing

past missing walkway to Beacon Burger

toward south beach in Chartroom parking lot

You Think?

Already life is picking up the pieces and moving on, and our thoughts and prayers are with those in Japan who were far less lucky than we this time.

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