This week, you might notice groups of people headed for high ground in the Bay Area. Don’t worry — they’ll be participating in evacuation drills as part of Tsunami Preparedness Week.

The nationwide event is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, a 9.2-magnitude temblor that unleashed tsunamis that killed more than 130 people along the Alaska, Oregon and California coasts.

One of the places devastated by those quake-generated waves was Crescent City, in Del Norte County on the North Coast. Eleven people were killed there as tsunami surges destroyed the town’s harbor and business districts (see video above). Although a warning had been issued, townspeople didn’t evacuate — in part because nothing had happened during past alerts.

The town has taken that history to heart. The tsunami spawned by the 2011 Japan earthquake devastated the town’s harbor, but no one died. And this week, Crescent City is holding a series of events to commemorate the 1963 disaster and teach a new generation of residents what to do when the next tsunami warning comes.

Kevin Miller heads the tsunami program for the state’s Emergency Management Agency. He points out that the best way for many people to seek safety when a tsunami warning has been issued is often on foot.

“Certainly in California, safe high ground is relatively close by in most cases,” Miller says. “So in the event of little time to evacuate, they could potentially walk to safety instead of getting into their cars and getting into a traffic jam.”

Later this week, you can participate in practice evacuation walks and other events at various Bay Area locations, including at Marin County’s Muir Beach Community Center, San Francisco’s Marina Green and the Exploratorium. You can find a complete calendar here: Bay Area Calendar of Tsunami Week Activities.

And here’s a tsunami explainer from the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration:

This post includes reporting from KQED’s Charla Bear.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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