I was reading our old postings on the blog my brothers and I keep. My youngest brother, Terry, was at his house in Newport, Oregon when they had a real Tsunami alert. As I recall, it was associated with the huge tsunami that hit Japan. Terry had always brushed off warnings from Robert and I about doing the drills in case there ever was a real tsunami. He was a combat engineer officer in the Marines, then a street patrolman in Southern California, then a member of an anti-gang unit in a California metropolitan city. I guess he figured if none of that killed him the ocean wouldn't. However, when the tsunami warning came he got an eye full of the typical American reaction to danger:
When in danger, when in doubt
run in circles, scream and shout!
I thought this narrative would be interesting and useful for the survival minded. Bear in mind, while reading it, that my brother doesn't embellish or exaggerate. A lifetime of writing military and police reports has wrung that out of him. If he says it happened this way, it happened this way.
I pondered editing out some of the language, but I think I should let him tell the story in his own words. None of it will make a grown person faint dead away in today's American anyway.
This is a repost of the original which was posted on the old Hermanos blog Friday, March 11, 2011.
Today was surreal, and I will try to describe it as best I can because I know you guys are going to love the story. I should start by letting you know it's all good here, people got killed down the coast a ways, but we didn't and are back home now. No damage was done and we are no worse for wear.
For me it started at about 5:30, more or less, when my cell phone went off, later determined to be Robert calling in a warning. I had been hearing sirens going off in my subconscious, but had blown them off. When I saw I had a message from Robert I knew it was bad news, I just figured somebody else had died. Once I heard the message, I sprung into action. I looked outside and people were running in and out of their houses in pajamas throwing shit into their cars. I saw a black man dragging three small dogs into a car, shrieking "hurry hurry!" Police cars and fire trucks were going up and down out street blaring out muffled warnings, something about a tsunami, and evacuate immediately. It was total chaos. Then my neighbor lady calls me on my cellphone and shouts, "What should I do, what should I do?!!" I said, and I quote, "Hell Katie you've lived here your whole damn life, and I got here in September, how the hell should I know? But if I was you I would get out!" She did.
I ran and woke Jenny up, yelled there is a tsunami coming and we have to get out, pack some stuff. She said, "What stuff?". I was forced to reply, "I don't know, so food and shit". It was a bad scene, nobody knew exactly what to take, so we ended up taking the following, and I know this because when we got home I looked.
- pajamas and a blanket
- a pack of macaroni and cheese
- my shaving kit and two pairs of drawers
- Jenny brought her jewelry box
- a hair dryer, hair products, make up
- a bag of important family photos and our check book.
- Beretta 92F and one full magazine
T.J. was in charge of food, no shit, and on his own he filled a bucket with 5 granola bars, two cans of coke, and a bag of baby carrots. This is the sum total of what we fled with. I left the cats to fend for themselves.
We joined the stampede to Hwy 101 intent on heading east to Corvallis. When we reached 101, it was like rush hour traffic. The first thing I saw was a full sized pickup hauling a huge travel trailer make a crazy left turn through the intersection dragging his safety chain causing sparks to fly behind him. He had no tail lights. The Shell station on the corner was lined with cars to the street, all directions, probably 50 vehicles, parked all different angles and directions. Two grown men were in a fistfight in front a gas pump. I heard a cacophony of horns and yelling. We surged into the steaming masses and were swept into the line of vehicles, which soon came to a crashing halt in a bumper to bumper mass traffic jam. One asshole couldn't wait, and fishtailed into the gravel on the shoulder and tried to pass the crowd on the right for high ground. He got by me but somebody else was having none of it and blocked his path with his vehicle. At that point I realized that getting out of town, on the one and only road out, was not going to happen. I made a tactical decision to head for my friend Jeff's house, he lives high on a hill above the bay. I know the town well enough that I took a back road, and arrived there shortly thereafter. The police and fire trucks continued to blare out muffled warnings. Lot's of cars were on the roads.
Once at Jeff's, we had a tsunami party, he has a perfect view of the bay and ocean from his front window, and he has a big telescope. Jeff made pancakes and sausage, Mimosa's, and coffee. We just sat there and ate and waited for the big one. It never came.
Then, at about 8:30, my mailman buddy who is also a volunteer fireman, calls and says the tsunami hit and he's boogie boarded on bigger waves than that. Then he says, they're cutting half of us loose from the fire department, "Dude, let's go crabbing, we'll have the whole bay to ourselves!" I said, "Right on, Jenny has to go to work anyway." So I loaded up the family and went home. We drove down by the state park and saw a bunch of people standing there looking out to sea, waiting for the big one. Everything was mellow on my street. Jenny went to work, I took T.J. to school, and then met my buddy at the boat ramp with my boat. It was awesome, we had all the great spots to ourselves, and shared a 6 pack of beer. There was nobody else crabbing, so we cleaned up. He did have his fireman radio with him though, so if another wave came our plan was to firewall my boat away from the wave, catch the crest, and ride it all the way up the river to Corvallis. I figured if I died out there, I would become family legend, "Yeah old Unkie Terry, died in Newport crabbing during a tsunami." There are a lot worse ways to go.
Things are back to normal now, and no harm, but I did learn a huge lesson today. That lesson is this: Bad shit can happen, and happen really fast, and you better believe it can happen and be prepared to deal with it when it does. I was woefully unprepared, (as was everybody else from what I saw) and it could have cost me. Jenny and I both realize just how poorly we were prepared, so now are going to take the steps needed to make that right. To conclude, I have to say, today was like something you see in a movie, it was unbelievable how fast things degenerated and it became every man for himself faster than you can imagine. I was lucky, it could have gotten really ugly.