If a tidal wave comes …

There are signs at all the marked entrances to Oregon beaches telling us what to do when a tsunami is expected. But how do people on the beach get warned when a tidal wave may strike but is still some ways away?

A four-page brochure available online ("What to do if there is an earthquake/tsunami") says you can establish an account with Citizen Alert, which will send you a phone message. This is useful if the tidal wave is ecpected in a matter of hours. But it's no help to visitors to the coast and anybody else who just happens to be on the beach itself.

The brochure also says, "There is NO notification for a local tsunami. Your notification for a local tsunami is a major earthquake."

So if you're on the beach and notice the sand shaking under your feet -- as unlikely as that sounds -- start running inland and climb the nearest hill. "You have 15 to 20 minutes to reach high ground."

Some towns along the beach evidently have installed sirens, which I didn't know when I was contemplating this issue on a foggy beach Sunday. Those sirens are supposed to sound for three minutes at a time when the occasion comes up.

I've never heard one of these sirens being tested, which they should be on a regular basis, I don't remember it. So maybe the testing doesn't happen all that frequently, or maybe it happens only when I'm not around.

In any case, it seems to me a system of warning signals audible for miles should be available along Oregon beaches, and it should be tested on a schedule so regular -- like every day at noon -- that people become familiar with it and know, when it sounds at any other time, that it means trouble is on the way. (hh)

Instructions for when you feel an earthquake that's close enough to spawn a tidal wave.


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