My friend Sydney Steven’s blog this morning was about blissfully sleeping unaware that an earthquake had occurred off the Queen Charlotte Islands last night. This caused a tsunami warning that stretched all the way to the southern tip of Vancouver Island that points right at the State of Washington. I should have been so lucky, but my granddaughter’s piano concert and a late night snack with my grandson meant I was awake when Joanne Rideout of KMUN’s The Ship Report began posting NOAA reports on Face Book last evening about the time I ought to have been calling it a night.
I am reminded of another night during which I slept perhaps too well. In 1964 my mother, father and I spent Easter Vacation (it was still called that back then) at my grandparents’ beach house in Seaview, Washington on the Long Beach Peninsula. We had neither telephone nor television and when we weren’t out on the beach we read for entertainment. Then we went to bed. That Good Friday was no different than any other night and does not stand out in my memory except in terms of the following day.
That night my parents and I did sleep blissfully unaware that there had been a tidal wave warning (they weren’t called tsunamis in 1964—at least not by us) in the night. Saturday morning was the first we heard about it from a neighbor boy, Christopher, who wanted to know why we hadn’t been at the gym at the old pink high school in Ilwaco the night before. “What?” I’d asked him. It seemed that the sheriff’s department had gone up and down the Peninsula with a bullhorn advising people to evacuate to the school which sits atop of a hill of sorts compare the to the relative flatness of the Peninsula. Christopher said that he’d enjoyed laughing at the teenage girls in their bathrobes and big hair curlers (another thing we still did in the ‘60s). I was glad for several reasons. First of all, there’d been no tidal wave on the Peninsula so we were alive , second we’d had a good night’s sleep and third, when I got back to Tillicum Jr. High in Bellevue on Monday I enjoyed bragging how I’d slept through a tidal wave. My girlfriend Deby Bingham thought it was hysterically funny.
Last night my mind was turned to my mother who fifty years later lives in an apartment in Ilwaco and has a tsunami bag. Ironically on October 12th they’d supposedly had a test of the tsunami preparedness up and down the West Coast. There are big flying saucers on poles located along the Peninsula that are supposed to issue warning. I’ve heard them test it and thought God was speaking from the clouds. There are supposed to be robo calls to the local numbers warning people to evacuate. My mother has received those calls in the past, but not this time. Because she’s 90 I had warned her so that she wouldn’t freak out. This summer I spoke to Jackie Sheldon, the manager at my mother’s apartment building, and she told me that she’s arranged for buses to arrive to take the largely old and infirm residents to higher ground.
So last night as KMUN’s The Ship Report gal posted NOAA updates about the seemingly ever expanding area of the warning and sat 150 miles away unsure of what I’d do if suddenly the Washington coast was included in the warning area. I really panicked when it reached southern Oregon and northern California and Hawaii, but seemed to skip over Washington. Had NOAA left something out? Finally round midnight Rideout posted that the warnings had been reduced to advisories along BC and OR so I turned off the light and went to sleep.
My mother has a tsunami bag. In it she has bottled water, a can opener, and a fifth of bourbon. The latter has puzzled us since she asked my husband to buy it for her. My youngest says that she’s going to get blind drunk and ride out the storm in her second story apartment. Based on the tsunami practice this month that may be her best bet, but just last week she had me buy her a thermos for her bag. She says that she’s going to make coffee if there’s time.