Roughly fifty Cutler City residents responded to the wail of a tsunami siren today, signifying the beginning of an earthquake and tsunami drill that was conducted to see how long it took residents in the area, at extreme south Lincoln City, to get safely to higher ground.
Residents had been given two weeks warning of the drill that began at 11am, and forced the closure of Highway 101 as residents, guided by community CERT volunteers, directed them to the staging area on 101. From there they crossed the busy highway and then up a hill to a local construction materials site which is hopefully out of reach of a tsunami. However, some estimates of a tsunami generated off the Oregon Coast by a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake would be 75′ to 100′ feet high. That triggered suggestions that when Cutler City residents arrive at the construction materials site, they should keep climbing the hill just to be sure they’re out of the tsunami’s clutches.
Everything appeared to have gone smoothly. North Lincoln Fire Rescue and city emergency management personnel declared the drill a success in that it showed many residents that they must be ready and know what to bring with them when they head to higher ground. They must also must realize that when they get to that higher ground it will take getting used to. North Lincoln Fire Rescue Captain Jim Kusz stressed again the importance of bringing food, water and warm clothes with them as part of a survival kit. Kusz said no one should expect to be rescued from any hilltop within the first few days, and even then they may receive nothing more than more food and water and be told to remain where they are. Lincoln City Emergency Management Coordinator Debra Smith noted that a locally generated tsunami could arrive on shore in as little as 15 to 20 minutes. She and Kusz asked for a show of hands of those who made it to the staging area in less than 15 minutes and roughly half the hands went up. Kusz said it points out that such an evacuation must be practiced over and over to bring down their times.
During a de-briefing at a nearby church, CERT members shared their observations and thoughts about how the evacuation drill went and everyone seemed to be pleased with it. They said everything went off without a hitch from the siren activation to the coordination of closing 101 down while residents headed to higher ground.
Lincoln County Schools Safety Officer Sue Graves reminded everyone that last year’s Japanese Tsunami killed many people who thought their evacuation destination would protect them. Many did not, simply because the tsunami proved to be much taller than earlier predicted. Graves said that the Cutler City evacuation spot should be no one’s final stop. Everyone will have to keep climbing up from there. She said “it’s a common issue up and down the Oregon Coast. Get to higher ground,” she said, “and then keep climbing.”
CERT members were also reminded of a massive five state “Shake Out” event coming up in the Fall. On October 18th, “Shake Out” will test earthquake preparedness and survival skills of residents of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Utah. For the coastal states, add tsunami evacuation and survival skills to the list of competencies being tested. There is also an earthquake and tsunami preparedness fair at Newport City Hall this Saturday, from 3pm to 7pm. It’s free and will follow a “drop in” format so anyone can come and learn about surviving the “big one” and its resultant tsunami anytime during those four hours.