Conflicts with Tsunami Warning evacuation caused confusion Friday


Many wondered why the delay in sounding sirens for evacuation.

Direct verbal info from Tsunami Warning Center conflicted with posted warning, say city officials.


Kodiak Island residents headed to high ground Friday morning when an evacuation notice was given following a 7-point-0 earthquake 10 miles north of Anchorage.

Many wondered at why no sirens sounded in town for an evacuation when the tsunami warning was first issued at 8:35 a.m. by the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer.

Instead, the sirens and the order to evacuate came at approximately 10:15, 40 minutes after the initial Tsunami Warning, and just 10 minutes before the wave, if one was generated, was to hit.

Adding to the confusion, sirens were audible in some areas early on. These were likely the Coast Guard base ordering evacuation of low lying areas. The updated inundation zones show that most of the base proper could be submerged if a major tsunami were to hit the Nyman Peninsula where the base is located.

The Kodiak Air Station also got aircraft up as soon as possible after receiving the initial Weather Service warning. That is standard policy according to one of the helicopter pilots who spoke with KMXT on Friday.

Kodiak’s City Manager is designated as the head of the local Emergency Operations Center, or E-O-C. City Manager Mike Tvenge  is the one who decides whether or not to sound the tsunami alarms and order an area-wide evacuation.

He held a meeting Friday afternoon with local media to clear up confusion on what happened during the Tsunami Warning period. The police and fire chiefs also attended.

KMXT spoke with Tvenge following the meeting. He explained the sequence of events.


“As soon as we were notified there was an earthquake in Anchorage, the staff set up the Emergency Operations Center. We looked for our information source, which is the Tsunami Warning Center out of Palmer. You know, we had at one point that the Cook Inlet region was going to be activated; Kodiak was in the clear. Later we heard that Kodiak was not in the clear and so we initiated the sirens to evacuate the low-lying community area. And then later that threat was gone and we issued the all clear.”


When asked how he would respond to those critical of the delayed evacuation notice, Tvenge said he acted based on the information he had at the time.


“Like I said. When we gather that information, we put it out as quick as possible and if we didn’t have the information to say, you know, evacuate any sooner, we wouldn’t do that.”


Tvenge said the city’s information came from official sources.


“Yeah, we had the information from the Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer and the state Emergency Operation Center at Ft. Rich.”


The primary Emergency Operation Center for Alaska is located on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in north Anchorage.

While Anchorage suffered major damage from the quake, Kodiak officials say there was no impact or accidents related to the quake and evacuation.


In follow-up coverage on Tuesday, we will look at what the Coast Guard aircraft do once they get into the air following a tsunami warning.

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