Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tsunami? Notsomuch. UPDATED

UPDATE at the end.....
As I type this, the tsunami alarm is going off. The panicked phone calls began at 3:45am. An earthquake in Chile has triggered a tsunami warning - and chaos ensued.

The size of the wave expected? 6 inches.

SIX INCHES. (I have so many filthy dirty things I could say right now, but I won't.)

How can they even measure that? How do they even KNOW it's a tsunami at that point?

Ridiculous. The roads are jammed, the stores are rapidly running out of supplies, there are long lines at gas stations, and the phone lines are overloaded.

I have wine, cheese, plenty of food, and the only thing that is pissing me off is that we were going on a whale watch today - which has been cancelled.

Rumor is that MECo is shutting off the power at an undetermined time, as a precaution. They are going to close roads along the coast an hour before the wave - all 6 inches of it - is expected to hit.

So, you know, I wouldn't necessarily go surfing today, because the currents could be funky.....but other than that, I guess we'll just hang around the hacienda. Or something. The restaurant is open, but I don't know who showed up this morning. Since they are evacuating, and possibly shutting off the power, I don't know who's going to be hanging out in a restaurant 1 block from the ocean in a tsunami zone. But I am sure there will be plenty of business.


I took a nice nap. Yawn. Not to make light of what could have been a terrible, tragic, devastating horrific disaster...I am relieved that we appear to have been spared, along with all of the other islands that encountered the tsunami conditions before Hawaii (at least the ones I read about before deciding to take to my bed).

I have thought a lot about my post, and I think it is important to clarify several things. My frustration with the phones being jammed and the streets clogged with traffic and lines at gas stations and grocery stores etc.etc. was this.....

I live at 3000 elevation. I do not need to evacuate, ergo I did not need to be driving anywhere. I stayed off the roads and followed instructions. And the number of people that DID need to evacuate were greatly slowed by all the other panic-stricken folks rushing around. If there was a tsunami, and something DID happen to our water supply, I would have needed a lot more then a case of water. If we had a gas shortage, I would be walking anywhere I needed to go. No problem. If I ran out of toilet paper - which is, for some reason, a huge concern in the face of disaster - I would figure something out.

There were messages being passed around that were, to put it nicely, alarmist. Worst-case scenarios that probably scared a lot of people. But maybe it also caused people who might not otherwise evactuate to move to higher ground. In which case, they accomplished what they set out to do - alert, inform, and keep people safe. It's what you choose to do with this information that is really the most important thing.

If I lived at sea level, or even close to sea level, I would have packed up the dogs and our photographs and important documents, and gotten the hell out of town, as people in these areas were asked to do. If I was here visiting, I would have left my hotel immediately and followed the staff's instructions for finding higher ground. I am not foolish, and as I have mentioned before, I take personal safety very seriously. And so should you.

So, what DID I do? Little Miss HoHum Nothing is Going to Happen Just Calm the Fuck Down People?

As I mentioned, my first call came in at 3:45am from the other side of the world (interestingly enough, from my estranged father, who hasn't called in years). Then I got a call from a friend on island, telling me the tsunami alarm was going off at 6am, and she didn't want me to wake up and be scared. (love you M, thanks for letting me know). I called several friends who live on the coast, who might not have family on the mainland to wake them up, just letting them know that the siren was going to go off, and not to be scared, and nothing (if anything) would happen for hours. I talked to co-workers and the owner of the cafe, opining that if they were trying to evacuate the town our restaurant is in, it would be inappropriate to open for breakfast while they were clearing the streets and probably turning off power and water. I made coffee. We filled the tub so we had water to flush the toilet. We decided not to get ice (we had ice packs) and not to buy gas or water, because we didn't really NEED it. We filled pitchers and bottles of water with filtered water and made breakfast. I watched the news, read reports coming in, and then decided to go back to bed.

I wasn't being silly. I wasn't being cynical. I just didn't see a single thing that caused me a moment's concern. Maybe I missed some hysterical tsunami model showing Maui being swept away, maybe I missed the story about how much devastation a 6 inch tsunami could cause.....and I didn't mean for my post to downsize the danger of tsunami's in general, or the importance of responding to evacuation orders. I heard them, and I followed ALL INSTRUCTIONS issued by Civil Defense. I had my radio on. I had called my friends that I was concerned might not know, and I knew that whatever happened, whether it be utter devastation, mild inconvenience, or simply a normal Saturday, I was going to need more then the 3 hours of sleep I got last night. So I went to bed. My husband went up the mountain a ways to work. The kids watched a movie. And for the first time, I was not glued to CNN waiting in breathless anticipation for The Big One, like I usually am.

Mostly, I am just grateful. Grateful for my friends and family who alerted me, grateful that no one here was hurt, and grateful that my home and family were safe from even a threat of danger brought by this tsunami. I am also mindful that all around this world, people are recovering from natural disasters such as the one that passed us by today. Recovering in Chile, recovering in Haiti, recovering in New Orleans, for that matter.

Take care, stay safe, and for the love of GOD - Don't Panic.

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