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Communities pleased with response to BC tsunami threat

Last Updated Jan 23, 2018 at 12:39 pm PST

People take shelter after a tsunami warning was issued for the coastal areas of B.C. on Jan. 23, 2018. Photo credit: Twitter/@Cat_Lempke

TOFINO (NEWS 1130) – Emergency procedures kicked in from Haida Gwaii to the Victoria area today after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Alaska in the middle of the night.

A tsunami warning was issued, and then cancelled a few hours later.

After a communications breakdown during the Haida Gwaii earthquake 2012, the province changed the way it issued tsunami alerts and it looks like that paid off.

“We had a breakdown in the communication system after the Haida Gwaii earthquake a few years ago. It did not work very well. But it seems to have worked better this time. So, we’re learning some lessons,” says John Clague at SFU’s Department of Earth Sciences.

By most accounts, the emergency measures worked pretty well, according to Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne.

Osborne says she got the emergency text at about 1:55 a.m. and was out the door a few minutes later. “I think a lot of people in Tofino were ready for this. This town — over the past few years especially — has gotten more and more prepared.”

Even in more remote places like the Toquaht Nation, about a 40-minute drive from Ucluelet, band member Noah Plonk says they were able to clear out most of the homes within 20 minutes.

“We managed to pull it off, only two residents in our community didn’t want to attend, or wanted to remain in their home, there’ s not much we can do”

Tsunami sirens sounded in Tofino, emergency workers went door-to-door in low-lying areas of Esquimalt, and fire trucks blared their sirens and drove through the streets of Haida Gwaii communities.

Niki in Equimalt heard the emergency alert on her answering machine at about 2:30 a.m. She quickly woke up her kids and hit the road.

“All the information was that if there was a tsunami event, then it was still quite a ways away. But it’s a little creepy, crossing bridges over water when you know that something could be happening.”

The alert was lifted about three hours after it was issued. No wave ever came.

PreparedBC reminds people to have a plan and ensure you know how will be notified in case of a disaster: