Tsunami Scramble

Early Tuesday morning, at 1:05, our weather alert radio activated, announcing a tsunami warning after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake south of Kodiak. We leapt out of bed, listened to the full report, then scrambled.

Haines is just too small to be listed in many area wide alerts, but the announcement gave time estimates for “the first wave” in towns up and down Southeast Alaska. We estimated we had an hour or more to make it to high ground.

Woman evacuee.

Michelle with her pack at the rendezvous point (Photo: Sarah A. Zeiger).

We didn’t wait long. I did go on line to check with tsunami.gov to learn more; we roused Aly, dressed, grabbed our bug out bags, and threw them into our larger packs. Michelle called my brother and sister-in-law in Baranof Warm Springs, and learned they were already up and headed out. We then went around the house gathering extra items, and corralled the cat, dumping her into her carrier. Within half an hour, we were ready to hike to high ground. I grabbed the emergency radio as we turned out the lights and headed out (see Emergency Ready: Eton FRX 5).

We went up to a pair of dump truck-sized glacial erratics at the “top” of our property, just above the highest point of our trail, which I believe is about 117 feet. We keep a bug out bucket under one of the rocks, and that is our rendezvous point in an emergency (see Emergencies Don’t Wait). The cat pissed and moaned the whole way (and I do mean that literally, not figuratively) but still proved more resilient than we ever hoped in such circumstances.

We took off our packs and leaned them against the rocks, set up a place where we could sit comfortably on the snowy ground, then Aly and I hiked to the nearest high point to try to text family to let them know we were safe. We sent messages, and received a phone call from friends in town who wanted to warn us.

We returned to the rocks, chose a level spot, and pitched Aly’s tent. Once we got in there, we warmed up, and the cat calmed down. I soon fell asleep.

tent in the snow

Aly’s tent, seen later Tuesday morning (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

We stayed in the tent till about 5:00 a.m., then hiked back to the cabin and to bed, where we slept very late!

We turned the radio off of alert, as the same warning kept playing. Michelle checked our local station before we left the cabin, but the regular BBC news played at that time. We later learned that the program director went to the station to keep people informed, and that Haines Police asked everyone to evacuate to above 100 feet! We also later learned that the earthquake did, in fact, create a tsunami, it just didn’t reach damaging intensity, this time.

It wasn’t a drill, it was the real thing. We had not wasted our time.

In the aftermath, we devised an interesting way to evaluate our performance, and plan for future emergencies. We’ll post that next time.

This entry was posted in Weather, Tides & Geography and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Tsunami Scramble

  1. John and Mary says:

    Sooo glad to hear “all is well”. When we heard of the tsunami up there, we immediately thought of you folks. It is good to know you have a POA (plan of action) ready when such events occur.
    Well done….as usual.
    All the best,
    Rock ON!
    John & Mary

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thanks, John and Mary. It seems like it was more fun the further we get from the event.

  3. Eva says:

    So glad you all are safe and were so prepared. I immediately thought of the Zeiger Family and was very happy to learn the warning was canceled. Whew…that quick evacuation gets you moving quick…only know that from a tornado warning here in the Midwest. I was totally impressed you all had a tent and seemed to have everything ready to go…except maybe the cat…haha!

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thanks, Eva! A long time ago, Michelle and I lived a couple of different places in Texas. Commonly, discussions with locals included our amazement that they could live so comfortably in “Tornado Alley,” while they marveled that we could be so nonchalant about growing up on The Ring of Fire!

    I recall one tornado warning where we went to our apartment complex’s shelter, the laundry room. In a complex of hundreds of residents, we found one other person down there. We soon learned that she, too, had moved there from outside the region. No Texans could be bothered with taking shelter, apparently.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *