Evacuated Tofino and Ucluelet residents head home after Tsunami Warning cancelled

“We’re safe to go home.”

Tofino and Ucluelet residents breathed a collective sigh of relief around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning as the Tsunami Warning that had evacuated them from their homes and into their community’s emergency muster stations was cancelled.

“The warning has been downscaled to an advisory. So, that’s good news” Ucluelet’s Manager of Environmental and Emergency Services Karla Robison said into her megaphone at the Ucluelet Secondary School around 4:30 a.m. “We’re safe to go home.”

RELATED: Tsunami warning cancelled for BC coast

The school’s gym was packed as hundreds of community members had gathered after receiving alerts to evacuate after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit off Alaska around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. Local police and members of the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade were knocking on residents homes around 3 a.m. advising them to head to the gym.

After relaying the good news that the warning had been cancelled, Robison explained an advisory means to stay away from docks, shorelines and harbours.

“A warning means you need to evacuate, an advisory means you don’t go surfing, you don’t go hang out on the docks, you don’t go boating, you don’t go fishing,” she said. “An advisory is just to stay away from the ocean because there could be some stronger currents and there could be some smaller-type surges, but no large waves.”

An automated message from Tofino’s One Call emergency notification system went out at 4:42 a.m. advising Tofitians the Tsunami Warning had been cancelled.

RELATED: Residents evacuate in parts of Port Hardy

Ucluelet local Pieter Timmermans said he and his wife Barbara Schramm were in bed when they heard the tsunami siren.

“We thought, ‘Okay, something’s going on,’” he said. “We were waiting for a text to come through on the cell phone, but nothing came through so I called the local RCMP and they said, ‘There’s a tsunami alert’ and we boogied out.”

Schramm added that she was surprised a tsunami advisory wasn’t immediately posted on the district of Ucluelet’s website.

“Still in my bed, I looked for that and there was no notice,” she said.

Timmermans said he was in the school’s gym by the time he received an alert on his cell-phone and added he was impressed with how many people heeded the warning and made their way to the gym.

“It was really interesting to see everybody get up and at ‘em and obey the warnings,” he said. “It was a good learning exercise. Even though the texts didn’t go out in time, I’m sure next time this will help iron out some of the wrinkles.”

RELATED: Tsunami warning ended for Greater Victoria

“It was a really good drill,” said Ukee local Julie Chernis. “Neighbours came to the door and pounded on our door and then, 10 minutes later, the fire department came…It was neighbour-to-neighbour. They were banging on the door. They knew we were there and they didn’t let up until we got up and said ‘Hey, we’re on the go.’”

Julie’s husband Ed Chernis suggested he’d like to see a quicker alert from the district office next time.

“What gets me is that, if the earthquake was at 1:30 a.m., why did the emergency notification from the district get to me at 3:49 a.m.?” he asked. “I had to rely on a neighbour to come pounding on our door to let us know.”

Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly News inside the gym that the community responded well to the event and that she and her team will discuss the evacuation event and ways to improve in the future.

“It was a very good dress rehearsal. As always, there are things to learn when these things happen so we’ll definitely have a debrief with our gang here, but everybody was very professional and very calm and did what needed to be done. I think we’re on a good path with emergency preparedness,” she said.

“The community did awesome…The firemen did a great job getting to all the low lying areas, evacuating everyone and getting them up here to this reception area. People were very patient and very calm. So I’m very impressed and, luckily, it turned out to be downgraded to just an advisory so we’re very grateful for that.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sarah Simpson Column: Creativity, and smoke, yields two new ‘computers’

My son opted to empty the recycling bin of all its boxes and create stuff.

Arts & Entertainment column: A new book, an art prize, and an AGM

Here are a few of the things happening in Cowichan’s arts and culture scene.

Cowichan golf pro Jackson up for provincial honour

Cowichan Golf Club mainstay is already the only two-time winner

Tube Shack’s annual clean-up shows how far river has come

Less garbage than previous years, owing to years of clean-ups and weekly patrols

BCHL approves back-up plan for 2020-21 season

Without gate revenue, league will rely on player fees, government and business support

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Most Read