NOAA to test tsunami warning system for Alaska at end of March

The annual test of the Tsunami Warning System is of great importance to Warning Coordination Meteorologist Joel Curtis at the National Weather Service.

“Of all the things I lose sleep over at my job, the biggest is tsunamis,” Curtis said. “It’s an extremely low-frequency, high-risk natural hazard.”

At approximately 10:15 a.m. March 29, the test will take place, sending signals via radio, television and siren throughout Southeast Alaska. Juneau will receive radio and television warnings, but will likely not hear sirens, Curtis said.

The main purpose of the test is to make sure the warning system works for cities and communities more toward the outer coast of the region, but because of the strength of the signal, most of Southeast Alaska will likely receive the warning. Juneau’s risk of a tsunami impact is “low,” according to the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Part of the reason the weather service does the tests, Curtis said, is to see if it can control the signal it sends out. The feed on television will almost certainly make it crystal clear that it’s merely a test, he said, but the audio broadcast might say that there’s a tsunami headed for the coast. The test will focus on coastal areas such as the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak, the Aleutians and the Pribilofs, but the signal could reach Anchorage and many other parts of the state, Curtis said.

“We’re alerting the outer coast,” Curtis said, “knowing full well that just about everybody in Southeast Alaska’s gonna hear the test.”

The test is part of Tsunami Preparedness Week, which falls from March 26 to April 1. It takes place that week in remembrance of the Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami of 1964, which took more than 130 lives in Alaska, California and Oregon. Curtis and his department request that residents head to ready.alaska.gov to report feedback after the test.


Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com


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