CANNON BEACH - Is the town ready for the big one?
Attendance at the four city-sponsored tsunami preparation meetings conducted in October was lower than anticipated, but those who did attend received a flood of information about where to go and what to do in case disaster strikes Cannon Beach.
Residents from the north side, midtown and Tolovana areas and downtown business operators were given a map showing where to evacuate if a tsunami occurs from either a distance - Alaska or Japan - or in the local Cascadia subduction zone 50 miles off shore.
In effect, Fire Chief Cleve Rooper told them, run for high ground as soon as the earth shakes or the sirens sound.
"I was a little disappointed in the turnout," said Rooper, who spoke to between 50 and 70 participants in total during the past month of meetings. "But we will work with the motels and managers of rental properties. We will talk to to the block captains and assess what to do next. We may have to go from living room to living room."
Another tsunami information meeting is planned in Arch Cape Nov. 15, Rooper said.
City officials are still seeking volunteers to be block captains and members of a citywide emergency response team. The names and contact information for elderly or disabled residents who might need help during emergencies are being collected by the police department.
In all of the meetings, Rooper and City Manager Rich Mays stressed the need for local residents and employees to help visitors. During a meeting with downtown businesses, Rooper said employees should make a plan about how to evacuate from the inundation zone, which could be flooded within 20 to 30 minutes if a local tsunami occurred and in about three hours if the tsunami resulted from a distant earthquake.
The Ecola Creek Bridge wasn't constructed to withstand an earthquake, Rooper said, and it may collapse in a tsunami, so downtown workers should consider other evacuation routes for themselves and their customers.
"If someone is dazed and confused, just say, 'follow me,'" Rooper said.
Sam Steidel, a city councilor and operator of a downtown gallery, asked if delivery truck drivers knew where to go if a tsunami occurred and how they would be notified about an evacuation. Rooper said emergency personnel would block the roads coming into town. Delivery companies would also be given the maps and information, he added.
Margo Dueber, who operates a clothing store downtown, said that when the last evacuation occurred a few years ago, customers wouldn't listen to her.
"In my store, people didn't take me seriously. I had to get in their face and yell at them. You have to use your Mom voice," Dueber said.
Those attending the meeting designed for midtown were told that, although city officials once thought that the ground near City Hall and a few blocks east of Hemlock Street would be safe from a tsunami, the updated maps indicate that water could flood those areas, too.
The Cannon Beach map is the result of at least two years of study by scientists from all over the world.
"It's probably the best tsunami map in the world," said James Roddy, earth sciences information officer for the state Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, who attended two meetings.
Evacuation points include the north entrance on U.S. 101, Sunset Hill on Sunset Boulevard east of the highway, Milepost 30 on the highway, Haystack Heights east of Chinook Avenue and the Tolovana Mainline Road.
Rooper noted that the evacuation points aren't the same as the shelters. The shelters are the Community Presbyterian and the Church of God churches and the Cannon Beach Children's Center in Tolovana Park.
"After the 'all-clear' siren is sounded, if the churches are still standing, we will open them as shelters," Rooper said. A city committee has spent several months organizing the shelters and training volunteers.
On the north side, several houses on and near Eighth Street will act as "safe houses" for evacuees, said Molly Edison, chair of the city's emergency preparedness committee.
City officials also are storing supplies in various areas around town for use during and after disasters, Mays said, and two committees are working on plans to take care of people during the emergencies and afterwards. Residents should prepare emergency kits that could last two weeks or more, Rooper said. Those kits should contain water filters or water purification tablets.
If a 9.2 earthquake hits the area, help wouldn't come immediately, Rooper said.
"It is anticipated that most of the help would come from the Willamette Valley, but there probably would be significant damage to bridges, roads, airports and train stations....You can plan to be on your own for quite a long time."
Rooper recalled the lack of response that occurred during the windstorm last December when telephone and power lines were down and trees blocked highways and local roads.
"We depended on the Red Cross to provide us shelter, but they didn't know we needed help because we didn't have a way to communicate. By then, they had committed to assistance to Chehalis and Vernonia. No one was available to come to our aid."