Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 11th - Or A Day In The Wake Of A Disaster

My world goes round, my family is safe, my home is whole –dry – stable, and there is food on my table. My heart goes out to the Japanese people.

In total ignorance of the growing crisis in Japan (I was watching cable not network TV – so no information crawler) I took two sleeping tabs and went to bed at about 10:30. At 11:30, Beady Dee Dee called me. We are on Tsunami watch, after we checked out CNN together and her husband the Chief gave me some info through her I got dressed and was at work by Midnight. Yes, she chatted with me that long.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration or NOAA has an amazing array of informational sites for professionals and the public. KCST began disseminating information and Tsunami watch information. Phone calls began coming in. CENS (Community Emergency Notification System – or reverse 911) called me at the station (WTF) at 2:30AM or 3 o’clock to let me know I needed to be at the newly opened EOC (Emergency Operations Center – aka the Siuslaw Valley Rural Fire District’s main station.)

Thirty minutes later I was called by incident command that they were going to sound the Tsunami siren in 15 minutes.
This gave me enough time to write up and record a new dissemination and air it. It went something like this….

The National Weather Service has issued a Tsunami Warning for the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest.

At approximately 9:36pm PST an earthquake registering an estimated 8.9 struck the eastern coast of Japan. A Tsunami wave is expected to hit the Northern California and Oregon coast at approximately 7am (7:15 – 7:20 – 7:25 – sometime between 9 and 10am [seriously it changed that much.)

The Tsunami siren has sounded – please do not call 911.

Residents living near the beach and those in the Tsunami inundation zone are advised to evacuate to higher ground. The Florence Events Center has been opened as a relocation center (as was Three Rivers Casino, the Florence BiMart and Fred Meyer’s parking lots.)

Please do not call 911, do not go to the beach

Again, the National Weather Service has issued a Tsunami warning for the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest. Stay tuned for further information and updates, you’re tuned to FM 106.9 KCST.


And the phone calls began. I don’t call it the headless chicken republic for nothing. Excerpts from actual phone calls I answered (and for a while I was the only one at the station – so I answered them all) –

“What’s that siren? Can they turn it off I’m trying to sleep?”

“What’s that siren?”
“The NWS has issued a Tsunami Warning ma'am.”
“What should I do?”
“Well ma’am where do you live?”
“On Siano loop.”
“You need to evacuate ma’am. They have opened the Florence Events Center as a relocation center. That or higher ground would be where you need to go.”
“But how do I get there?”
“You drive ma’am” (Siano loop is just over the dune from my house – which is not in the Tsunami inundation zone and take my word this woman could hear the siren it’s less than a block from her house.)
“But I don’t have a car.”
“Ma’am, I suggest you call a taxi then.”

I had several phone calls in the same vein. One lady wanted to know if they would let her take her pets - see has dogs, cats, and birds. I really didn’t know the answer to that one. Several phone calls, and I mean several wanted to know if their house was safe. They lived at least a mile outside the Tsunami zone.

What frustrates me, and I imagine the EOC too, is that since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami that killed tens of thousands, the City of Florence and other communities along the Oregon coast have been neck deep in educating residents in disaster prevention and preparation. You can not drive anywhere in Florence west of Highway 101 and not see signs that either tell you you’re in a Tsunami Inundation Zone or that road you are driving is
designated as a “Tsunami Evacuation Route”.

Monthly free workshops teach residents how to be ready in the event of a multitude of disasters – but they all focus on earthquakes and tsunamis. So how can you be in Florence for any amount of time and not know 1) If your house is in an inundation zone 2) what you should do 3) what emergency supplies and equipment you should have on hand in preparation 4) HAVE A FUCKING PLAN!

We kept our listeners up on where they could go, what schools were closed for the day or just on two hour delays. Sadly, at least one of the valley TV stations reported that Siuslaw schools were closed for the day, when in truth, until 8am they were just on two hour delay with morning kindergarten canceled. But of course at TV station 65 miles away would know better (according to phone calls) than KCST, even thought we get phone calls directly from the 97J Superintendent of Schools. Yes, they did finally cancel school for the day – the “I told you so” phone calls were delightful.

Then finally they called us at 10:30 to say in 15 minutes they would ring the all clear. It was a delight for me to make that announcement – Being a mile away from a Tsunami siren inside a building I didn’t get to hear the chimes. Several times before my airshift was over I made sure to invite people to openly say thank you to the officers, firefighters, city and county employees who made their Friday safer. Being a Friday, I still had a full day of work to do (I hate Fridays) and didn’t get to go home from work until 6:30 – over 18 hours after I arrived. But it was a fulfilling day.

I demanded pizza for dinner, ate three pieces, brushed my teeth and was in bed by 8:45. I didn’t get out of bed until 9:30 this morning. Yes, I did not go to yoga.

This afternoon I went and had to settle for kelp with 400mcg’s of iodine, because the two pharmacies I checked didn’t have potassium iodide (my friend got a bottle but it was expired) I need to go buy some potassium to go with it – no bananas won’t work, Ducky hates bananas. One pharmacist looked at me and the guy who asked for the potassium iodide like we were idiots. Do I have to worry about fall out from the Fukashima Meltdown? You betcha – check out the Unisys satellite image. Be safe, be educated, be smart.

Now I’m going to go have ice cream (Umpqua Dairy's Chocolate Brownie Thunder,) read the high wind warning one more time, say a prayer for the people of Japan, and go back to bed.


Psamanthe said...

It's a damn shame that you can't direct the TSTL's to a beach front seat to watch the show.

As for meltdown..... I guess we're Fuk'd..... hehehe gotta find something to laugh at in all this.

Jen said...

I grew up in Salt Lake City, which is earthquake country, and we had earthquake drills in school and even a couple 6.5 and ups while I lived there. Then I spent 11 years in San Diego. Every time we had an earthquake, I did the same thing: Nothing. Just sat there, watching things fall off shelves. Didn't jump up and stand in a doorway, didn't dive under a desk. Just sat there, stunned. If we'd ever had the Big One I'd have been squished like a bug. And forget tsunamis, I'd have been peeking out the windows to see if the water was rushing up the street yet. Yeesh.

Psamanthe said...

I have this weird secret fantasy to some day buy property in Florida and build a steel and industrial strength Plexiglas hurricane-proof shelter and REALLY experience a hurricane...

I'll give you the address Jen and you can come 'ride one out' with me!

Jen said...

Ooo! Ooo! Maybe we could build one here in Texas and watch tornadoes, too!!

Psamanthe said...

................ that sounds like fun!!! I know I shouldn't say that. Tornadoes are destructive and deadly... but they fill me with desire...

....... and that desire would probably last all of 30 seconds if I found myself in that situation... but still.. ooooohhhhhhhhh