Sunday, March 13, 2011

STAYING UP ALL NIGHT FOR THE TSUNAMI...'s coming, it's coming, they were telling us...
I stay up late most of the time, and maybe I shouldn't do that. I can't sleep if I know something out there's trying to get me. Early Friday morning, I was surfing the web and encountered a news update on the Yahoo site, something about a huge earthquake which devasted Japan. So I switched on the TV, and found out that a huge Tsunami was heading eastward across the Pacific Ocean, putting the entire West Coast of the good ol' USA in jeopardy. "Yikes!", my brain went, and I knew I wasn't gonna be able to get to sleep until I found out more. Breathless newscasters, endlessly repeating themselves over and over again with the same information, all wondering about the tide pulling waay out, which would announce the coming of a mighty ocean wave; they were getting hysterical and were becoming more difficult to listen to by the minute, speculating, "when will it arrive?" and "how big's the Tsunami waves 'sposed to be?" Then a weather guy came on the screen, and said that the Tsunami's course had been plotted, and the biggest thrust was basically heading further south than Coos Bay, where I'm at. Next, I went to the local paper's website and looked up the Tide Tables. High Tide was at about 11:45pm Thursday evening, which meant the tide was falling as the Tsunami headed eastward Friday morning. So it's not really because of the Tsunami that the tide was going out. The tide was going out anyway, which worked in our favor; there would be no High Tide which would make the tsunami-inflated water level not as high as it could've been.
As the newscasters began speculating about the possible devastation, and emergency procedures, and readings that Tsunami-sensing buoys near Hawaii were providing, they all began trying to get various Tidal experts to speculate how much higher the water levels would be when the big waves finally got here, and they came across with a height figure of about 2 and a half meters, which is somewhere between 6 and 7 feet. Knowledge is power, and the more I knew, the safer I felt, because my neighborhood sits on a bluff about 50-60 feet above sea level. 50 feet minus the 7-foot tide prediction meant I had 43 feet to play with. Plus the fact that my house sits about 20 feet higher than the 50 foot bluff meant that by a fairly long shot, I'd be safe. But I still couldn't bear to go to sleep until the Tsunami actually got here, even though my house is higher up than the local fire station, where people can go to wait out the Tsunami. I knew all this logically, but that didn't make any difference.
The Talking Heads kept saying the Tsunami would encounter my portion of the coast at 7:15am Friday. So I Had to stay up until at least then. I couldn't rest until I saw it for myself. Just after 7am, I walked over the road that borders the bay, and I thought "everyone's gonna think I'm some kind of wacko for doing this". However, that wasn't the case. 7:15 in the morning, and people were gathered by the side of the road, looking out onto the bay, to see this Big Event that everyone was talking about. I realize that on other areas of the coast, people were seriously impacted by the rising Tsunami-related tide levels, but here, it was the Tsunami that never happened, sort of like the Kouhoutek Comet or Geraldo Rivera's futile attempt at discovering treasure on network TV.

This photo looks almost straight down onto the bay. You can see a full-size seagull down there, looking for food. It was taken from the 50-foot bluff I referred to earlier. The bay at this point is half-a-mile wide, if not wider. Then there's a strip of land (a "spit") between the bay and the ocean. The wave would have to go over that spit before it got to us locals. Thankfully, it didn't happen. Obviously, Mr. Seagull didn't care one way or another.

This photo looks south, and at middle left, you can see a bluff with a white building on top, about 4 miles down the bay. It's the Coast Guard Tower, and at the right, is where the Ocean meets the bay, and if the tide's high, you can see waves crashing on that bluff. There really wasn't a whole lot of water activity there as far as I could see. That bluff is about 20 feet higher than the bluff I was standing on, and the bay looks fairly placid. The tide is low, and near the bottom of the photo, a shallow portion of the bay is exposed. The seaport town of Charleston is located just east of the Tower (off the left side of the photo) and I understand there was some structural damage to the docking area. Lots of fishing boats dock there, I'd imagine boats were bumping into docks, perhaps docks bumping into other docks. A friend of mine lives in his docked boat; I hope he's okay. Of course, Charleston is right at Zero Feet above sea level; not a great place to be during an approaching Tsunami.
Back to Friday morning, I'd been hanging out on my Perch of Safety for a long while, and had been up for close to 20 hours straight; it came time to head back home and catch some ZZZZ's, Tsunami or no. I woke up that afternoon, and drove into town to see if any other places were devastated. By then, the sun had come out, and before heading up the highway, I took this shot out of my car window. It was still fairly windy, but as far as I can tell, this particular section of Coast was spared the agonies of devastation. Local school districts here had been closed, and a shopping mall in North Bend, near here, decided not to open for business. It's located where the bay comes up and around, and is close to sea level; better to err on the side of caution. Further north, up around Tillamook, where there's a lot of relatively flat territory, people were heading to safe places, in some cases going up over the Coastal mountain range, towards the Willamette Valley. Gold Beach, which is about 60 miles south of here, experienced some damage in its harbor; Brookings, which is close to the California border, experienced some really high tides, and in Crescent City, California, a town which is built near the harbor, there was a lot of boat, dock and structural damage. Back here, some of downtown Coos Bay is actually on land that was scooped up out of the bay long ago, and there was no damage that I could see. So many in this area got off easy this time around. But I think I'm going to get what's known as a "72 hour kit" together and put it in the trunk of my car. Such kits consist of foods, a can opener, a flashlight, bottled water and other necessities, just in case things are worse the next time around.
In no way was this post meant to trivialize the suffering that the nation of Japan is experiencing right now. The news footage from over there is just terrible. This world can seem very big most of the time, and it's events like this that show just how vulnerable we all are. The earth's crust isn't all that thick, and we're all just running to and fro on top of it. Let's hope Mother Earth calms down for a while.


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