In the historic tradition of, “Where were you when JFK was shot?” and New York’s “Where were you when the lights went out?,” Cannon Beach now has a question all its own:

“How did you learn of the tsunami warning, and where did you go?”

Lesle Palmeri

Cannon Beach resident; owner, Walker & Company Marketing Communication, Seaside

“(The earthquake in Japan) was all over the news at 10 o’clock Thursday night, so I started calling other people – including my former spouse, who can sleep through a train wrecking right next to him. I called him and said, ‘GET UP! GET UP!’

“By 2 a.m., my son was calling from Klamath Falls saying, ‘GET OUT OF TOWN, MOM, GET OUT OF TOWN!’… So I left, just to keep my son from calling me again and again.

“I know about 15 people who live up on the hill, so I packed a tent and a sleeping bag, thinking that if any of those 15 people who are my friends didn’t want me, I could camp out on their lawns...

“There were people walking their small children and their dog on the estuary right by my house. The fire department was yelling at them, and finally told them it was a mandatory evacuation, because there was some kid out there with his surfboard.”

Stephanie Ansley

Owner, Primary Elements Gallery, Cannon Beach

“I went through my first tsunami warning in Manzanita, where everybody stood out in their front yard and didn’t know what to do, because it was just a warning and we weren’t being told to leave yet. When we finally did leave, we all parked up on the highway so we could see it come in.

“I don’t have a phone at home, but I had a cell phone in my purse. I have a TV, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to turn it on...

“I have a son in Hawaii, and everybody in the family called him first, and then called me. I had 23 messages on my phone when I got to work. All I heard was a  bullhorn warning, saying that nothing was going to happen for 12 hours. So I just went back to sleep.

“I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. The next awakening was at 7 a.m., that said, ‘You have 15 minutes to leave’… I was going to walk, but I thought, ‘This is foolish, it’s cold outside.’ So I grabbed my coat and keys, got into my car and headed up Highway 101. I think I was the last car out of town. I didn’t see a soul in town when I left.”

George Vetter

Owner, George Vetter FotoArt, Cannon Beach

“I heard a fire-truck siren at 2:15. I jumped out of bed because it was so close to me…. My first thought was that this was a prank, because I was expecting the big sirens to go off (in the event of an actual warning), not just a small truck on the street. I turned the TV on and saw right away the unbelievable video of the tsunami that had hit Japan.

“I had a doctor’s appointment in Portland that day, anyway, so we quickly packed up and headed for Portland. It was 5:16, and I was very surprised to see that there was very little traffic on Highway 101. But we caught up with the traffic on Highway 26…”

Carmen Swigart

Co-owner, Sea Ranch RV Park and Stables, Cannon Beach

 “My daughter called at about 11:45 p.m. (Thursday). She told me about the tsunami warning, so I turned the TV on and followed the news.

“My daughter begged me to come to Corvallis… I debated for one hour, but things didn’t seem to be getting any better, so I packed up and left … I thought I was one of the few to be leaving, so I was very surprised when I got up to Highway 26, and the traffic heading to Portland looked like it does in the summer. It was kind of eerie.”

Linda Dugan

Sales representative, Beaver State Insurance, Warrenton

“I have one of those NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather stations, so the alarm went off at about  12:45, but it was just an advisory. It said the waves would be there at about 7:20… And then, at about 1 a.m. or so, the alarm went off again and said it was a warning.  But I live in Warrenton, so I just stayed put.”

Patty Atkins

Public Relations Director, Providence Seaside Hospital

“My boss called me…and I ended up at the hospital at 3 o’clock in the morning with Eric Meyer, our emergency preparedness coordinator. We were prepared to evacuate if we needed to, but really, the best information we were getting was from TV. There wasn’t a lot of  information coming out of the EOC [Local Emergency Operations Center]. The City of Seaside seemed to have it a little more together. So at 7 a.m., we evacuated the lower floor of the hospital, which could be affected if we had a big tsunami. Finally, at 7:45 or 8 o’clock, we just opened it back up. It was good practice.”

Kathy Klezcek

Owner, La Luna Loca, Cannon Beach

“I was woken up at about a quarter to two by a friend here in town… My first reaction was to get up, check the television, and find out more information… Then I called my employees to make sure they were safe and knew what was happening. I called them kind of in order of where they live, and one of them lives west of Hemlock… As I was talking to her, I could hear the fire department going by her house, telling people that they had until 7 o’clock to get to higher ground…

What I found interesting was that there was a lot of emphasis put on 7 o’clock, but the news was saying that the first event might happen at 7 a.m., but that it would be a continuous thing. I thought everyone’s reaction locally was, ‘Oh, it’s 7:30, it didn’t happen,’ and people started to head back to their homes right away…  That was a little disconcerting.”

Karrie Purdom

Bank of Astoria, Cannon Beach

“My oldest son called me from Portland around 11:30 Thursday night. I turned on the news and pretty much stayed up all night and watched the tragedy unfold. I grabbed a few things and my dog, and at about 5:30 in the morning I went up to the first entrance at the highway and sat in my car until we were told we could go back. You know, Porta-Potties would be nice in those high areas. That was the toughest part, I think.”

Patrick Nofield

President, Escape Lodging, Cannon Beach

“We coordinated the staff (of Escape Lodging’s Cannon Beach resort properties, the Ocean Lodge and the Inn at Cannon Beach) and actually went to each room, knocked on the door, woke people up gently, explained the situation, and told them we were going to have an evacuation and here are your options. Everybody left fairly calmly.

“(Ocean Lodge General Manager) Wendy Higgins had bagels and coffee ready for our guests in the lobby. When the Stephanie Inn guests came out, they had nothing, so Wendy was feeding them, too. Later, Scott Cruickshank of Martin Hospitality (which operates Stephanie Inn) called and thanked us for taking care of his guests, too...”

“If you were a guest in a hotel, what would you want? How would you like to be treated? That’s how we approached it.”

Ryan Olson

Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals

“We had six to eight houses (rented), which makes it challenging to get hold of everybody because we’re not all on one property. I got a call at about 1:30 a.m. from (a member of the Cannon Beach Fire and Rescue board of directors)… I started calling guests and got messages to them… Around 6 a.m., I made physical contact with the guests we hadn’t talked to, and made sure they knew what was going on. We pulled the main computers out of our office and took them to my house, because they have all our information on them….We had 10 check-ins that day, and all of them stayed.

“We’ve had a plan in place for about five years. We’ll review how it all went and make any necessary changes, but I think it worked very well.”



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