Oregon coast residents, visitors rattled by tsunami threat

Oregon Coast
generic tsunami evac route 1.23.18

SEASIDE, Ore. (KOIN) — Residents and visitors to the Oregon Coast were startled early Tuesday when a large earthquake in Alaska prompted a Tsunami Watch on the Oregon Coast.

However, the watch caused confusion when some residents received alerts while others didn’t.

“In the years I’ve lived here I’ve never experienced this,” Tayia Lepraire, who works at Seaside Shell gas station told KOIN 6 News.

The strong earthquake hit at 12:32 a.m. and was recorded about 175 miles southeast of Kodiak Island.

Warnings from the National Weather Service sent to cellphones in Alaska warned: “Emergency Alert. Tsunami danger on the coast. Go to high ground or move inland.”

Lepraire said the gas station is normally empty throughout the night. After the Tsunami Watch was issued around 2 a.m. for the Oregon coast, people came flooding in.

“All the sudden I come out from the back and it’s just piles and piles of cars and people coming in and people rushing to grab as much as they can as quick as they can,” Lepraire said. 

“A lot of people had their kids with them and their kids were very frantic and not sure what to do.” 

The Tsunami Watch was canceled around 4:15 a.m. — but some counties never received an alert, prompting some residents to wonder why?

Officials said there are 4 different types of alerts concerning tsunamis. They range from the most serious of a “Tsunami Warning” to the lowest level of an “Information Statement” where residents shouldn’t be worried, but at least be alert.

In many cases, the state and/or the National Weather Service alerts the counties and then the counties decide if they’re going to send out an alert to the public via their alert systems that people can sign up for.

Some cities have their own alert system and can decide on their own to send out an alert.

However, on Tuesday some counties decided to not send out an alert to their residents since it was a Tsunami Watch. Clatsop County didn’t send out an alert while Lincoln County chose to. 

Lincoln County emergency manager Jenny Demaris said, “For our county, we had to make the critical decision whether to wake people up at 3:30 a.m. We could’ve waited a little longer. There was a strong possibility that the watch would not of turned into a warning and require an evacuation, but what if it did.”

In the case of a Tsunami Warning — the most serious of alerts — residents will automatically be alerted either through an automated phone call and/or text message. 

Seaside resident John said the alert made him realize he needs to be better prepared. 

“It’s always on your mind. The big one is always on your mind,” he said. 

If you’re not sure if you’re on the county’s alert system, you can double check by signing up through the city you live in and the county. 

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