'Anticlimactic' tsunami rolls through

No reports of damage in Southeast Alaska communities after alert

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010

ANCHORAGE - A tsunami packing little punch rolled through Alaska waters Saturday, but was hardly noticeable to residents in coastal communities.

Louis Garcia / Kodiak Daily Mirror
Louis Garcia / Kodiak Daily Mirror

"Anti-climatic. And you can print that," said Dan Berg, assistant harbormaster in Ketchikan.

There were no reports of damage, said state Homeland Security Director John Madden.

Because of that, state emergency managers were able to view Saturday's event as a test of tsunami plans that have been put in place in coastal communities.

"The alert systems worked; the communities invoked their emergency plans," Madden said. "They were ready for any changes. If the advisory had gone to a warning, they were ready; the state was ready."

Unlike Hawaii, where a tsunami warning was issued, the West Coast - from Attu to the California-Mexico border - was under an advisory that was being lifted in segments throughout the day. There were no evacuations in Alaska, and officials urged people to get off the beaches and away from harbors.

But only small waves hit Hawaii and the warning was canceled, leaving many to anticipate few problems in Alaska.

"Not even much of a little wave. No boats rocking; it was mellow," said Jen Kain, the administrative assistant at the Seward Boat Harbor. She had fielded calls from some of the owners of 500 or so boats currently in Seward, but no one pulled them out.

There was nothing noticeable in Sitka either, and a dispatcher with the police department said she received no reports about the tsunami.

It was the same situation in Port Alexander, one of the first Southeast Alaska communities in the tsunami's path.

"Nope, we haven't noticed anything," said Molly Kimzey, business manager at the Laughing Raven Lodge in Port Alexander, a community of about 80 people on the southeastern corner of Baranof Island.

The tsunami was the talk of the town, she said, but it didn't appear to prompt action.

She said one person told her, "No, we're not doing anything. We're just paying attention to see if it hits California first."

"If this is the worst of it, we're doing pretty good," she said.

Officials in Kodiak took to the local radio station to let residents know about the tsunami advisory. A 1.5 foot wave was recorded at Old Harbor but there were no reports of damage.

In Sand Point, located on Popof Island off the Alaska Peninsula, wind was the biggest weather concern Saturday. City Administrator Paul Day said the "weather's just howling" with 60 mph winds and rain.

But otherwise, there were no problems from the tsunami in the community of about 960, which next month will receive an award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for being a tsunami-ready city.

Officials did sound sirens in the community to alert residents. "We participated and nothing happened. Thanks, God," Day said.

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