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Dispatches from Oregon's tsunami zone

The Oregon Coast, looking south from Cannon Beach.

The Oregon Coast, looking south from Cannon Beach.

Following a disastrous 8.9 earthquake and tsunami in Japan last night that killed hundreds of people, Oregon coast residents awoke in the wee hours this morning to tsunami sirens and megaphone alerts from emergency vehicles on the streets, and evacuation phone calls.

So far the actual impacts on the ground here in Oregon are very mild. The Coast Guard has reported no damage on the Oregon Coast from the tsunami, though larger than normal waves are still expected.

Being the nosy reporter that I am, I put in some calls to people on the North Coast this morning. Cannon Beach resident Max Broderick gave me a great firsthand account of the tsunami itself, such that it was, as it rolled into Ecola Creek.

“If you hadn’t known a tsunami was coming, you wouldn’t have known it was a tsunami,” he said. “It was nothing that abnormal except it came from an earthquake on the other side of the ocean.”

Read the rest of his story below, along with some of the other tidbits of happenings:

  • Boats and ships moved away from their berths on the Columbia River to avoid potential damage from a surge of water at the docks.
  • People were crowded around the Astoria Column by 6 a.m. and gridlock made it hard to get out.
  • Highway 26 was jammed with cars heading inland from Seaside, and Camp 18 provided shelter for many.
  • The actual tsunami was minimal, but noticeable, Cannon Beach resident Max Broderick told me.
  • Broderick, 22, was perched atop Chapman Point with about a dozen other people when the tsunami came ashore before 8 this morning. At 3:30 this morning, he and his family moved their valuables to the upstairs portion of their home, took the boat out of the garage, and packed up some of their most prized possessions along with an emergency supply kid before heading to higher ground:

“We were on high ground with a view of the ocean so we could overlook Cannon Beach and Ecola Creek and get a view of whatever so-called tsunami came in,” he said. “It’s also a meeting place for my family and a couple other families too. So we rendezvoused up there and stood around in the rain and cold for an hour or two waiting for something to come.”

A little something did eventually come ashore, he said:

“The tide receded abnormally, and the first push of the wave =went above the high tide line. So we assumed it was the tidal wave because the tide was dropping and there shouldn’t have been anything going up above the high tide line. There was also a surge going up Ecola Creek a little ways. We could see all this from our viewpoint. It was kinda cool.”

The water receded again and there was another small surge after that, he said:

“We were all a little disappointed, but at the same time it was a relief. … If we hadn’t known a tsunami was coming, you wouldn’t have known it was a tsunami. We’d just be thinking the tide’s acting a little weird. It dropped significantly for three or four minutes. It receded pretty far past Haystack Rock, and we thought, ‘This must be it.’ Then some measly little surge came up and went up to the mouth of Ecola Creek, and that was about it. It engulfed Haystack Rock, surrounded it with water. There were two big tide recedings and there was one big surge and the other one was just moderate. It was nothing that abnormal except that it came from an earthquake on the other side of the ocean.”

There were a couple other exciting moments, he said, like when the news chopper flew by and they jumped up and down, hollered and waved. They also saw a couple kids get chased off the beach by cop cars.

“They ran into the dunes, where the cop cars couldn’t go,” Broderick said. “It looked to me like the kids got away.”

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