FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Greg Romano
News Releases 2006
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NOAA’s National Weather Service today released an evaluation of its operations on June 14, 2005, when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake off the northern California coast prompted a tsunami warning for the U.S. west coast and portions of British Columbia.
Within five minutes of the June 14 earthquake, NOAA’s West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for areas within a two hour wave travel time, which included coastal areas from the California-Mexico border to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, B.C. The warning was cancelled about an hour later, after NOAA tide gauge and Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis buoy station data indicated the 10-15 cm wave was non-destructive.
The assessment found that because of the infrequency of tsunami warnings some coastal communities were unsure about actions to take when the alert was issued. Many found the warnings and bulletins confusing and seemingly conflicting, which led some media outlets to inaccurately report that the warning had been canceled when it was still in effect. As a result, some communities ignored the warnings. However, many emergency managers received information in a timely manner and successfully exercised preparedness plans, including evacuations.
“Since tsunamis are rare events and tsunami warnings in the United States are uncommon, we need to continue to educate the public about what to do when an alarm is sounded,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. “NOAA continues to encourage education and preparedness through programs like TsunamiReady. Working at a grass roots level, TsunamiReady is a NOAA-sponsored program that works with communities to prepare evacuation plans, enhance communications and heighten awareness of tsunamis for both residents and visitors.”
The service assessment calls for continued support of the TsunamiReady program, highlighting the successful evacuation of residents and visitors from low-lying Crescent City, Calif., which is a TsunamiReady community. Crescent City experienced a tsunami in 1964 when its beach community was subjected to the worst tsunami damage on the West Coast.
“A key finding of this report was that some media outlets, emergency managers and members of the public misunderstood the information issued by NOAA’s two tsunami warning centers,” said Laura Furgione, director of the National Weather Service Alaska Region and service assessment team leader. “The assessment recommends that we make the format and content of our warnings and watches clearer and easier to understand by the public. We started this process before the June 14 event and the first series of improved products became available at the end of December 2005.”
The assessment also recommends improvements to clarify procedures for distributing warnings over the Emergency Alert System, enhancements for ensuring NOAA Weather Radio reliability, and continuing the end-to-end warning dissemination testing, all of which are being acted upon or reviewed.
Service assessments are a routine internal evaluation of National Weather Service operations during major weather and natural hazard events, and include input from government agencies, emergency managers, media and the public. They are a valuable contribution to the ongoing efforts to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of National Weather Service products and services.
NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA's National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.
NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.
EDITORS NOTE: Copies of the entire Service Assessment report are available online at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/assessments/index.shtml.
On the Web:
NOAA’s National Weather Service: http://www.nws.noaa.gov
Tsunami Portal: http://www.tsunami.gov/