SEASIDE — At 10:20 a.m. Thursday, Seaside High School Principal Jeff Roberts used the loudspeaker to tell all students to take cover for the earthquake. The students dropped to their hands and knees, took cover under their desks and held on.
Seaside High School took part in the Great Oregon ShakeOut for the first time this year after Associated Student Body leaders suggested the statewide event. Homes, schools and organizations in other states and countries also participated in the drill Thursday.
“We thought it would be wise for us to do,” Roberts said.
Associated Student Body leaders are continuing the tsunami awareness efforts started by last year’s officers.
“We wanted everyone to use this to get educated,” said senior Kara Ipson, a student body officer. “It’s important that everyone knows what’s going on.”
Walk in the rain
After the4-minute earthquake drill, more than 200 students braved a downpour to complete a tsunami-evacuation walk down Highway 101 and 12th Avenue to safety. Students complete the walk twice a year.
“I feel like slowly everyone is becoming more prepared,” Ipson said. “It’s definitely something we’ve thought about our entire lives, because ever since elementary school we’ve been doing these walks.”
As they headed to the tsunami-safe zone on Ocean Avenue near the RV resort, students and teachers said they felt confident in their preparedness.
“At least I know where to go,” senior Nate Coburn said.
Some expressed concern about whether bridges and the school building would hold up long enough for them to exit the tsunami zone.
“If half of (the bridge) gets knocked down, how are you going to make your way across the broken-up concrete?” math teacher Trent Rollins said while walking across a bridge on 12th Avenue.
Jason Boyd, athletic director and social studies teacher, donned a bright rainsuit for the walk.
“If we do have to make this walk, most of the building is not going to be standing, as well as the bridges are not going to be standing,” Boyd said. “So even though we’re telling kids to get to the hill, it may not be as easy as we think it’s going to be.”
Though she said she feels prepared, senior and student body officer Lizzy Barnes said “we might not be able to make it out of our school.” She also worries if children and elderly people will make it to high ground.
High school students will be able to “pick up the pace quite a bit and hustle up there and be okay,” Rollins said. “A lot of people who grow up in this area, they prepare for the big tsunami.”
“But the elementary school, I worry about my son that’s over there,” he added.
‘Worse than Hood to Coast’
Student Riley Hebert said an actual tsunami warning is “worse than Hood to Coast.”
“It’s straight gridlock,” he said. “Nobody goes anywhere and it’s kind of crazy, but the schools try to teach us what to do.”
“When there’s a warning and the sirens go off, everyone jumps in their cars and drives about 45 feet, then realizes everyone else is driving and you can’t go anywhere,” Boyd said. “You have to get out and walk. At least they (students) know where a safe place is.”
During the approximately 20-minute walk, some students ran to the front while others took their time.
“If there were an actual earthquake, we would all be running,” Barnes said. “We wouldn’t be walking like this.”
Once in the safe zone, rain-soaked students squeezed into school buses to return to campus. On the ride back, they sang songs and chatted among themselves. Despite reservations about the school building’s conditions and Seaside bridges, many students, like sophomore Scott Budig, felt “more or less” prepared.
Boyd said it was important for the school to do twice-yearly tsunami walks for new students.
“It gives them an option to hopefully survive as opposed to stay in the building and wait for it to get inundated with water and drown,” he said. “If the building’s still standing.”