Have you ever thought run-of-the-mill Board of Fisheries meetings were like a marathon? You could step up your game and try the Alaska Fisheries Iron Man, which includes getting “up for a two-hour-long tsunami warning, then get up again three hours later to finish up day 10 of a 10-day-long Board of Fish meeting,” says Julianne Curry, Petersburg, Alaska, fisherman and fisheries consultant.
Reactions to Alaska’s early-morning tsunami warning came, appropriately, in waves.
I woke up at 5 a.m. to a barrage of Facebook activity from my friends all over Alaska. A 7.9 offshore earthquake at 12:31 a.m. triggered a small tsunami with an 8-inch wave height, witnessed in Kodiak and Seward. Many coastal towns evacuated to communal safe locations and hunkered down together, listening to emergency sirens “filling the air for hours,” as described by Kodiak fisherman and NF Highliner Bruce Schactler.
Some Alaskans may be wondering if they have a target on their back. The last mass posting I saw from my Last Frontier friends was during the Hawaii missile scare that sent archipelago vacationers and residents — it’s a favorite winter haven for Alaskans who need to verify that the sun still comes up in winter — into duck and cover mode for more than 40 minutes. It was not a drill! Nope. Just a Homer Simpson moment for some poor state employee who hit the wrong button.
After the initial tsunami warning came the social media posts asking if this was for real, an understandable reaction from a population that may still be recovering from a false missile warning. Some made light about being on the move to a safe location and said they were heading downtown for an evacuation party.
Then came the chatter about low water at high tide in some ports, sparking a small flutter of fears of a flood return.
After about two hours, the National Weather Service in Juneau called off the warning for Washington, British Columbia and most of the Alaska coast. The time was 3:20 in Alaska, 7:20 here on the East Coast. Our mornings were in full swing, and they were desperate to try to catch a few more winks after an adrenaline rush and long wait for the all clear.
Some Alaska schools — which in many cases are the community gathering location in case of emergency — were canceled for the day, some on a two-hour delay, and some carried on as usual (props to the teachers).
For many Alaskans, though, it’s likely to be a rare lazy recovery day. Despite their lack of year-round daylight, this is one state that knows how to get things done. But they also know when to call it quits. They’ve marked themselves as safe on social media crisis alert pages and will hopefully head back to bed for a cat nap after a few deep breaths.
“Today is not going to be a productive day,” said Cordova fisherman and NF Highliner Bill Webber Jr. “Dragging hard after the EQ party. I think it will a 3-pot press of Bulletproof coffee today.”
To all my Alaskan friends: I’m glad you’re still with us — high, dry, wet and salty, and any combination thereof.