Tsunami warning was taken seriously
Oct 29, 2012 / 7:27 pm
Lisa Kendall really only needs to answer two questions before she decides whether a tsunami might be heading towards her small community on British Columbia's Haida Gwaii islands.
Has there been an earthquake? Was the ground shaking so much that it was difficult to stand? If the answer is yes to both, then it's time to get to higher ground.
That's what happened Saturday evening as a magnitude-7.7 earthquake struck just offshore and shook Haida Gwaii and a large stretch of coastal British Columbia.
It was the only tsunami warning Kendall, the emergency co-ordinator for Skidegate, needed before she and other local emergency officials mobilized an evacuation.
"Anything that's hard to stand up in for more than a minute, you go to higher ground," Kendall said in an interview, adding that many in her community came to the same conclusion on their own.
"By the time we got to the fire hall, 15 minutes after the earthquake, there was already steady streams of cars going up to the high ground. People went and grabbed all the elders, their relatives."
The weekend earthquake has prompted scrutiny of how the provincial government handled the quake, with emergency co-ordinators in some municipalities complaining that it took as long as an hour before they heard anything official.
It has also revealed the challenges facing local and regional governments when it comes to communicating those warnings to the public, with some citizens glued to social media and others, like some in Haida Gwaii, living in remote areas without telephone service.
Kendall said she didn't receive anything directly from the government for about an hour, but she called the provincial emergency program herself a few minutes after the earthquake and was told there was a tsunami warning.
Officials in some communities, such as Prince Rupert on the mainland, said they received word from the province within 10 or 15 minutes of the quake.
Others, including several on Haida Gwaii, said they didn't hear anything for about an hour, but they all pointed out their emergency plans take effect as soon as the ground starts to move.
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