Tsunami reveals problems with Oregon response

Tsunami reveals problems with Oregon response
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ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — Emergency workers on Oregon's north coast say they're more cooperative and efficient today than when a big storm hit in 2007, but the tsunami warning this month revealed problems yet to be solved.

The Daily Astorian reports that officials of several agencies said there were problems keeping gawkers from heading to the beaches, for one thing. People were being kept off the beaches in some places but were able to gain access in others.

"We all need to work together here, and I didn't see that entirely happen," said Lt. Duane Stanton of the Oregon State Police.

Fortunately, said National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Todd, it was a tsunami from a great distance, and the waves arrived March 11 at low tide, not high tide. The tides had their greatest impact farther south, at the Oregon-California border.

"If we'd all slept through this ... no one would have been the wiser," said Pat Corcoran, coastal hazards outreach specialist with Oregon Sea Grant, based in Astoria.

The officials also said there are questions about who orders an evacuation and how to deal with a mandatory evacuation versus a voluntary evacuation, as well as who gives the order that it's safe to return home.

"The issue of central command is hugely important," said Clatsop County Commissioner Peter Huhtala.

Clatsop County Emergency Operations Director Dean Perez said he fielded a number of calls from people asking why Astoria hadn't been evacuated.

"That's a city call," he said. The county can advise and make recommendations.

There's a list of things to fix, Perez said afterward, "but they're all fixable."

There were complaints about automatic notification calls from authorities, with many people saying their phones rang hours late, when it was clear there was no longer a need to evacuate.

Clatsop County officials say the current service provider is in bankruptcy and is no longer maintaining the system supporting the county's emergency notification system. The county has issued a request for quotes from other potential vendors, with the goal of having a new system in operation by early May.

In Seaside and farther south, City Manager Mark Winstanley said, calls were prioritized, and people in the most vulnerable area were contacted first.


Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.