Tsunamis play havoc with people's expectations. After all, the tides are a dependable natural cycle we've lived with forever. This makes it hard to comprehend the ocean suddenly behaving in a way that is wildly out of ordinary.
This past weekend's threat followed a massive earthquake in Chile. In the end, there wasn't a discernible tsunami here. But it is a brilliant learning opportunity for officials and citizens alike.
Saturday wasn't just any old day, but a razor clam dig on a pleasant spring-like afternoon. The prediction was that the Chilean tsunami wouldn't amount to more than 6 to 13 inches in our area. But there was a chance it might intensify the normal tidal run-up by enough to put people in danger out in the surf zone.
In the end, it was decided to warn beachgoers they shouldn't put their lives at any risk for clams. There wasn't much chance of clam fans on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula turning around in the face of a fairly hypothetical threat. Still, officials were right to make the effort.
Unfortunately, a small risk was exaggerated by some agency representatives on the beach, undercutting long-term credibility. Others downplayed the issue
A consistent message and strategy will save lives. The biggest thing to remember is this: If we experience a strong, sustained earthquake, get away from the ocean immediately and stay away until authorities say it is safe.