TSUNAMI THREAT SPARKS ACTION
June 26, 2001 11:00 pm

By SCOTT GRAVES

The tsunami never struck Brookings-Harbor Saturday, but the U.S. Coast Guard, port employees and other emergency personnel were ready for it.

We went into emergency mode right away, Port Manager Russ Crabtree said Monday about how he and his crew reacted upon hearing about the tsunami watch.

The watch was issued at approximately 2:30 p.m. Saturday following a 7.9-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Peru. The potential area that could have been impacted by the tsunami included the entire coast of California and Oregon.

The tsunami watch was canceled at 6:30 p.m. Even so, members of the U.S. Coast Guard Station Chetco River and port employees had already prepared for the worst, Crabtree said.

We made sure vehicles were fueled and ready, and first aid kits were available.

Crabtree said this is the fifth time in about 14 years the port has responded to the threat of a tsunami.

Three or four years ago, we actually shut down the entire beach, evacuated the RV park and set up traffic control, he said. The tsunami never hit, he said.

If a tsunami had been imminent Saturday, Crabtree said all power in the port would have been shut off 60 minutes before the tsunamis estimated arrival.

Several port employees would have monitored the beach and harbor up to 30 minutes before its arrival, then headed for higher ground.

Upon receiving the tsunami watch report, Coast Guard Chief Mike Lewis said the crew began preparations immediately.

We have a standard response and checklist, Lewis said.

That included notifying all coast guardsmen, including those living in the community, that they may be called in if needed, he said.

The Coast Guard also notified the sheriff, police and area fire departments, he said.

The Coast Guard had towed one of its inflatable rescue boats to higher ground at the Harbor Fire Department on Benham Lane when it heard the tsunami watch had been canceled, he said.

Lewis said if the tsunami had been imminent, the Coast Guard would have also moved its large rescue boats offshore to wait it out.

Lewis, who has been in the Coast Guard for 17 years, said he has been involved in several tsunami evacuations during that time, including several in Alaska and one in Newport.

The big waves never showed up, but you have to take these things seriously, he said. Its good practice for the real thing.