Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Joanne Charles with tsunami-warning signage that was erected along Marine Drive from Finlay Street to Highway 99, as well as along Beach Road, last June. (File photo)

‘Restless night’ for Semiahmoo First Nation after tsunami warning

Alaska earthquake puts Semiahmoo First Nation on notice

Word early Tuesday that a powerful earthquake in Alaska had prompted a tsunami warning for coastal B.C and Vancouver Island made for a restless night for Semiahmoo First Nation leaders.

The band’s emergency co-ordinators received notification of the 7.9-magnitude quake around 1:45 a.m. – “12 to 13 minutes after” it struck nearly 300 kilometres southeast of Kodiak.

While the notice at that point was “only for information” – the lowest level of alert – it was enough to warrant their full attention; the first time that a notification has required the co-ordinators “to keep an eye on where we’re at.”

“We just kept watching for things… and we got put eventually on a watch and then we got moved up to an advisory,” band councillor Joanne Charles told Peace Arch News.

According to EmergencyInfoBC, the latter is the province’s second-highest level of tsunami alert, “issued due to the threat of a tsunami that has the potential to produce strong currents dangerous to those in or near the water.”

It did not trigger activation of the SFN’s all-hazards alert system, which was put in place a year ago as part of the band’s emergency-preparedness activities.

However, “we basically sat up throughout the night to watch where we were,” Charles said.

“We didn’t have the information that showed there was a need to evacuate. (But) there is potential, because you don’t know.

“So it was a restless night, but at the same time, that’s part of our responsibility for public safety.”

City of Surrey communications manager Oliver Lum told PAN that no steps were taken in that city, as Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth had indicated the alert did not extend to the eastern part of Vancouver Island or the Lower Mainland.

Charles, however, said the Semiahmoo were ready regardless. The band has been practising for just such an emergency through monthly drills that began nearly a year ago.

The drills include a 90-second siren followed by a message advising residents to move to higher ground or inland. The SFN muster location is the Pacific Inn.

Tuesday’s experience was “a good exercise for us,” Charles said, noting the all-clear came in around 4:30 a.m..

“Everything went as it was supposed to. We’re just very fortunate that the tsunami didn’t generate to something bigger.”

Charles said SFN emergency co-ordinators will remain on watch for further notifications, as aftershocks can also cause tsunamis. She acknowledged word of a tsunami, for many, will evoke images reminiscent of the 2004 devastation in South Asia.

“A lot of people mistakenly think that a tsunami is just one huge wave. It’s not,” she said, citing smaller waves and flood surges.

“One needs to consider what the surge is… it can come in at a very high speed and it can collect things along its way and cause damage that way,” she said. “It might come back in with a stronger surge behind it.

“That’s why it’s always important and safe for everybody to move to higher ground.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 in Chilliwack trying to flee police

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Drugs and guns seized by Chilliwack Mounties in complex case

Drug trafficking investigations led to five arrests in three different locations across Chilliwack

Chilliwack RCMP trying to catch robbery suspect

Police hope someone will identify the person who appears in security camera footage

LETTER: Why is Jati Sidhu ashamed of his riding?

Lytton’s Christopher di Armani shares his dismay at the potential name change of the MP’s riding

Chilliwack churns out new generation of wildfire fighters

School district partners with B.C. Wildfire Service to prep Grade 12s for careers

Stolen Bentley spotted going wrong way down highway found in Summerland

The car has been recorded going the wrong way on the Coquihalla, found two days later

VIDEO: Vancouver fall to Seattle in Game 2 of the playoffs

Thunderbirds topple the Giants 4-1 in Langley, evening the Western Conference series one game each

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Vancouver-bound transit bus involved in fatal crash near Seattle

One man was killed and a woman injured in crash with bus purchased by TransLink

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Most Read