Recently, in the city of Kodiak, leaders from the region’s rural communities discussed they face at the Kodiak Archipelago Rural Regional Leadership Forum. The talks turned towards how communities reacted to the tsunami warning that affected many of Alaska’s coastal communities early Tuesday morning.
A cataclysmic wave never appeared that day, but leaders are using the recent ordeal to brainstorm how they can better respond to disasters. During the discussion, representatives from Akhiok shared how their community dealt with the warning and having limited communication with other communities.
Early Tuesday (1/23) morning, Teacon Simeonoffwas up when Akhiok was shaken by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit about 180 miles south of Kodiak.
“You could hear the ground rumbling long before the earth started shaking. Like a low flying jet.”
After a tsunami warning was issued, residents of Akhiok evacuated to a shelter on a nearby hill.
The village doesn’t have cell phone service, and that night, due to technical difficulties KMXT wasn’t broadcasting in the region. so no one could tune in for coverage of the situation.
The main way people got information about what was going on, was from the village’s Public Safety Officer, who was in contact with the Alaska State Troopers via a satellite phone. But, He could only get through to them about once every hour. So, Simeonoff says updates were few and far between.
“Waiting was excruciating.”
From the shelter, people could see boats that were fishing near the village. In between calls with the state troopers, If anyone wanted to know if there was a wave coming, Simeonoff says they had to:
“Stand outside and watch the boats. See if their lights go up or down or not.”
The tsunami never came, but community leaders are taking their experiences that night and trying to improve how their communities respond to emergency situations. Recently, at the Kodiak Archipelago Rural Leadership Forum people from local villages shared their experiences during the tsunami warning with representatives of the Kodiak Island Borough.
After what happened in Akhiok, Simeonoff made sure to bring up his village’s ability to communicate.
“My biggest concern for Akhiok is we do not have cell service so everybody did not have communication or ready access to reports to what was happening. What else was going on or what else was needed for the communities was needed.”
Simeonoff doesn’t think his community will get cellphone service anytime soon, but he wants to continue talking about how Ahkiok can better communicate during disasters.
KMXT is replacing Akhiok’s radio transmitter to ensure a more reliable radio signal for the region.