I am on a text message list for emergencies in SF – ostensibly for earthquakes, but they also notify me of road closures and storm warnings. I woke up to this text this morning, which had been sent at 2 a.m.
Subject: Situation Report – Tsunami Warning
Date: March 11, 2011
Event: Tsunami Warning Followed by 8.9 Earthquake in Japan
Prepared by Lt. Franey
At 11:42 pm Pacific Time, a Tsunami Watch was issued for the Pacific, Southeast Asian and Latin American nations, as well as Hawaii. At 0055 hrs. the Tsunami Watch was upgraded to a Tsunami Warning.DEM is aware of the situation and has assembled an Incident Management Team. DEM has contacted the States Coastal Region who will provide an update to the local level around 0200 hrs.As more information becomes available we will send out notifications.The DEM Duty Officer Pager is 327-0543.
You can see why I find this concerning. What the hell is the DEM? Who is Lt. Franey, and why should I care? What does it mean that the Watch was upgraded to a Warning? Should I be battening down my hatches?
This was followed up by another message ten minutes ago.
Subject: Tsunami Warning
Due to the 8.9 earthquake in Japan a Tsunami Warning was issued at 0055 hrs this morning.As a precaution the police department has closed the Great Hwy and NPS has closed Ocean, Baker, and China Beaches and Fort Funston. Estimated time of Tsunami arrival is scheduled for 0810 hrs. Minimal wave impact is expected.Stay tuned to KCBS 740 am for updates.
So something is going to happen in less than 30 minutes – “minimal wave impact” apparently – but I have no idea what that means. Surely they realize that saying “tsunami” is a way to give much of the populace heart palpitations. Maybe because I am an innocent East Coast girl, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. It seems like this is a “we’re tell you just to tell you, nothing for you to worry about, go about your business” kind of notification. In which case I just peed my pants for nothing.
And now I will return to obsessively reading about people who were riding the subway in Tokyo when the quake hit, thereby simultaneously justifying and worsening my claustrophobia.