Story and photos by Don Backman
The ground heaved, the trees swayed dangerously, the boards and hand-hewn logs that held the structures together began to come apart. Walls crumbled, roofs fell, trapping those who were still inside. Those still standing felt waves of acute nausea, as if they had been seasick in a terrible storm. Many fell to the ground.
After what seemed like an eternity, the horrible shaking finally stopped. People started calling each other in the dark, looking for friends, family and loved ones.
On the hill high above the small community, a band of hunters watched in the dark, horrified, as the few outside shots scattered, sparks fading into the darkness, to be replaced when the buildings cedar began to catch fire. , lit by warming lights inside. One of several landslides triggered by the tremor had cleared their way to the community. Now there was no fast path in the dark and they could only listen.
Out at sea and invisible in the dark, the ocean began to recede, only to rush ashore in a massive wave that swept away the small community of survivors. The wave roared inland, uprooting trees and rolling over the heights, finally crashing angrily into the sides of the coastal mountains.
Again and again, the giant ocean waves hit the land. When the waves died down, the small group of hunters could see in the morning light that the familiar beaches and coves had disappeared, underwater. The land had sunk several feet, and in places what had once been forests was now flooded with seawater.
Those survivors, older men, women and children, who were camped out butchering, smoking and drying an elk, were lucky. They took with them everything they needed to survive. They had tools and could make more. The elk would provide the necessary food for several weeks. Each of them knew how to build a shelter, start a fire, find food, make tools and survive in the coastal rainforest in winter. There was game to hunt and fish to eat. It would be difficult without their loved ones, but they would survive and tell the tale.
The date is January 26, 1700, at 9 p.m., the location is one of many places on the Oregon coast, and it’s a fictional story, but based on a real event that happened. The question remains. Would you survive a massive breakup of the Cascadia subduction zone just offshore?
Anyone who has lived on the coast for fifteen years or more has experienced the other more frequent disasters that we have experienced. Flooding, windstorms, week-long power outages, and shutting off all points outside the county due to highway blockages. These are familiar dangers of life here, and longtime locals know how to prepare for them. Some people remember the April 4, 1991 landslide on Highway 6 that covered 600 feet of road and closed the road for months. In 2006 and 2007, massive storms knocked out power to virtually the entire county, and many people waited more than a week for power to be restored. All highways were closed. Living on the coast means being prepared for a wide variety of emergencies in addition to earthquakes and tsunamis.
Bay City Emergency Preparedness
Bay City is working on this very issue. The City has reached out to citizens with a request for volunteers. A small town lacks the resources to do the necessary planning, and no town or city can stockpile the supplies needed to care for its citizens for an extended period of time. Two emergency sheds have been built in town above the tsunami flood zones, and blue lines are painted on the roads to indicate the likely elevation needed to be safe. Bay City residents received a newsletter advising them on how to prepare.
Many citizens responded and became block captains. A block captain is a volunteer whose job it is to help neighbors take care of each other in an emergency. Initially, they had worked on a program called Map Your Neighborhood, which meant either having a neighborhood meeting or talking with neighbors to help them get to know each other, like, is anyone under medical care? Does anyone work in construction? How about an amateur radio operator? What about neighbors who may be elderly or medically vulnerable? Do you have a fire extinguisher in case a fire breaks out at a neighbour’s? The idea is that during a major disaster, our neighbors are the first responders who take care of each other. Formal emergency services are likely to be fully engaged in other, possibly more serious situations. Especially during a major disaster where emergency services are overwhelmed and/or trying to survive.
Recently, the committee met with the Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay (EVCNB) to learn from their example. The volunteer corps is very well organized and is very prepared for emergencies. They were able to step in and help after the tornado hit Manzanita a few years ago, and volunteers are helping Tillamook Adventists in the current pandemic outbreak.
The committee learned that it is extremely important to educate the community and prepare for disasters. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for a municipality, especially a small one, to stock up enough food and supplies for a major disaster that lasts several weeks, especially one as large as a major earthquake or tsunami. which would take several weeks. and perhaps longer without services or supplies. Every family and every citizen will need to stock up on their food, water, sanitation and other emergency supplies, enough to last. People living in a tsunami area will need to make arrangements in case they cannot return to their residence.
Currently it is estimated that we will need supplies for at least four weeks, but in the event of the worst case scenario, a complete rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone, the devastation will unfold from Northern California, throughout Oregon and at the bottom. Canada. If so, even metropolitan areas like Portland and Seattle will suffer massive damage. Rescue efforts are likely to be significantly delayed.
Liane Welch, Bay City Manager, is a member of the committee. “As a resident,” she said, “it’s important to me that we have some kind of disaster plan, whether it’s a wildfire, which we’ve seen on Pike Road, tsunami – and we had the distant tsunami just recently, an earthquake, and severe weather. It is important to communicate with our neighbors and make sure they are well.
One recommendation was to take the next step beyond Map Your Neighborhood to something called Map Your Neighborhood, which expands the former to bring together larger areas. The committee is working on this and more information will be forthcoming.
The committee is also working on setting up emergency boxes with a limited number of useful items and information on how to prepare yourself for an emergency. They recently met with a member of EVCNB to discuss a communication plan. As a result, the committee purchases four emergency radios.
Welch also stressed that volunteers are always welcome. “The firefighters are organizing an open day at the beginning of May. The emergency committee will be there to inform and recruit volunteers. Those interested in volunteering could also come to the next meeting scheduled for February 22 at Bay Town Hall.
Tillamook County has a long history of neighbors helping neighbors. This is how we coped with the 1996 flood that did so much damage and devastation to dairy herds and dairy farms. In 2007, neighbors checked neighbors, neighbors helped open roads blocked by downed trees. In 2020 and the Pike Road fire, neighbors checked on neighbors. In the event of a future disaster, our neighbors will always be there. In the case of the Big One, our neighbors may be all we have for quite a while. If you live in or around Bay City and would like to help, contact Bay City Hall at 503-377-2288 or join them at the February 22 meeting at City Hall at 5:30 p.m.