Friday, March 11, 2011

The Earthquake

8.9?  Seventh biggest of all time [recorded]?  You've probably heard about it by now and seen the footage, which is pretty dramatic.  Here is something else that's pretty dramatic:


We started getting village-wide announcements around 4pm, which was a couple hours after the earthquake.  The announcements gained in frequency until they were every few minutes and included English announcements.  People moved their cars to higher ground:

And then boats became the priority.  It went against my instinct to get in a boat when a tsunami is coming, but after it was explained (the boat just bobs up and down in open water instead of getting crashed against the docks), it made sense.  But alas, I wanted to try and get video of the tsunami, so I stayed on shore and didn't follow the announcments to go to the school.  Instead I went out to a big pile of coral near the sea (seen in background of pictures below).  If the tsunami was big enough to kill me off that pile it would wipe out the village as well, so I was okay with my chances (and we'd been told to expect a 2m wave).

Unfortunately the police officer was not amused at all when he spotted me from across the port.  He and the ambulance had been patrolling the water's edge for 30 minutes and had nearly cleared everybody away.  The officer had no patience for my pleas that the wave was only going to be 2m and I wanted to video it.  So when I rode back to the village to 'go to the school' I accidentally just went to my apartment instead.  (It should be noted that there wasn't any village checklist and quite a few people were not actually at the school - I wasn't causing any grief or concern by not going to the meeting point.)  A few minutes later the tsunami came, but it wasn't nearly as dramatic as I'd expected:




It appears there was a very slow surge of 40-50cm.  Here is a better shot of the height of the wave/surge:

[click to enlarge to see where the waterline was a few minutes prior]

So, pretty anticlimactic here, but I suppose that's the preferred scenario (compared to what Sendai got).  But the preparation I witnessed was amazing!  The wave was predicted to hit at 6pm, but at 5:50pm a helicopter showed up from the mainland and just hovered high over one of the uninhabited islands, clearly in position in case of injury.  A low-flying plane came through at 6:20, too.  I assume assessing damage?
The announcements were very clear about meeting places for each of the three inhabited areas of Zamami, also instructing people on where fresh water would be available and what our timeline was looking like.  They definitely had a disaster preparation manual and were following it.  Like I said, there was an announcement in English and the policeman and ambulance were doing a great job patrolling.  The communication really was great.  Japan really is good at this stuff (at least from my experience and also what I am hearing from the news reports).


Saxtor said...

I'm very glad to hear you're alright and things were anticlimactic where you're at.

Julia Graves said...

thanks so much for your post. When I heard about the earthquake and tsunami I was concerned for all of my students, especially Subaru. Please tell him I said "hello". Neither of us are very good letter writers. Thank you, Julia Graves

Mom said...

As you can imagine, this is a great relief for all of us! You can't believe how many people have called dad and I at work to see if you're safe. Nice to know so many people care :-) I think Kristin has friends in Sendai so hopefully they weren't injured. Love ya!

Anna said...

I'm glad you're ok. Worrying about you was messing with my relaxation at the pool...

Jerry Uffcot said...

Very relieved that Zamami was unharmed. We loved it there.