Sirens a reminder of danger lurking offshore

By The Curry Coastal Pilot March 03, 2010 11:07 am

Curry County’s 911 Director Michael Brace canceled Monday’s  5 p.m. tsunami siren test, figuring the real tsunami threat trigger by the Chilean earthquake two days earlier had left enough people on edge.

Fair enough.

The bone-chilling cry of a siren, even when its expected, has an unsettling affect. A siren is sounded at 5 p.m. on the first day of each month in the coastal towns of Harbor, Brookings, Gold Beach and Port Orford. Often, the test catches some residents and unsuspecting tourists off guard (judging by the worried phone calls the Pilot fields each time).

The purpose of the siren test isn’t to strike the fear of God into residents, well maybe a little. It’s to send a consistent message for us to be ready to move to higher ground in the event of a major earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

It’s a message we must heed seriously. The same type of fault that caused the devastating magnitude 8.8 quake off Chile is similar to the Cascadia Subduction Zone that sits right off the Curry County coast.

Scientists who have studied Oregon’s Coquille and Sixes rivers to the north and California’s Klamath River to the south have uncovered evidence showing that our coast has been jolted repeatedly by powerful tsunami-generating earthquakes. At least 12 major offshore earthquakes have struck the coast in the past 6,700 years. The most recent quake happened about 300 years ago, so scientist say we’re overdue. The Cascadia Subduction Zone, scientists say, is capable of unleashing a magnitude 8 and 9 earthquakes.

We’re not trying to be an alarmist. But facts are facts, so we all should be ready for the next “big one.”

We are grateful the sirens are there to remind us every month.