Cambrian: Slice of Life

BEST OF: Tsunami? Not really

This 1986 column about the tsunami that wasn't resonates even more now.

The end was so anti-climactic. No matter what the weary news people dredged up to say after four or five hours of suspense, what was eventually happening was exactly nothing: It was the tidal wave that never really arrived.

Everything they said about the tsunami was still true. The wise ones were those in potential danger who had headed for higher ground and those who weren’t in danger who stayed put at home.

And then there were the half-wits who wandered down to the beaches with their six packs to “watch the show.” They truly were flirting with a brazen hussy of a wave that could slither up to 6 inches tall, and instantly build to 6 feet or 60.

I have profound respect for any tsunami, even this one.

The evening began with lots more drama than it ended with, like a Grade B off-Broadway suspense play.

We’d just heard the first newsflash when both phones rang at once. Mom was calling to tell me that our Cambria home was in the tsunami-watch area. Simultaneously, our youngest son, Sean, called from Lahaina on Maui. I could hear the sirens in the background, and he took just a few moments to tell me that they were being evacuated to higher ground.

On Maui, higher ground means Haleakala, a dormant (we hoped) volcano. Since a volcano isn’t usually the most secure, serene place to be right after an earthquake, I wasn’t at all certain I was reassured.

Then, when “it” was really over (by default, called because of a lack of interest, opponent never even got on the bus let alone arrived at the arena), only then did I have a chance to breathe deeply and remember where we’d been just last summer.

We took our motor home to Alaska. Among other places in 10 weeks, we went to Anchorage, and saw where part of the city had been swept clean by the tidal wave of 1964.

We went to Palmer and saw the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. We toured the facility and saw their banks of tapes and earthquake records, their seismological equipment (did you know that the very sophisticated housing for the detector is a metal trash-can?) and the delicacy of the instrumentation.

Husband Richard raised himself up on his toes, and then bounced down again, and the trip back down to the cement floor triggered quite a little dance from the seismograph’s needle.

All very impressive … and quite scary.

On our way home, we even stopped in Crescent City, Calif., and saw from a distance what used to be downtown, before the 1964 disaster.

Respect for tidal waves? You betcha, Charlie.

Just because this one decided not to visit doesn’t mean the next one will do the same. It might arrive, bringing company and then decide to spend the weekend.

That kind of houseguest I can live without.