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.”

Just Posted

Slocan Valley added to communities on flooding evac alert

Kootenay Lake is expected to reach flooding level in Nelson by Friday

UPDATED: Hwy 3 west of Creston remains closed due to mudslide

A detour is available on the Kootenay Lake Ferry, but commuters could see wait times

COLUMN: Making a wildlife smart community

David White writes how property owners can avoid conflict with nature

Police searching for Nelson man

Brent Mickelson hasn’t been heard from since February

Local police recognized for work

Eight officers were honoured for removing impaired drivers

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

UPDATE: Woman dies in ocean accident near Tofino hours before daughter’s wedding

“We are so thankful to everyone who helped our mom.”

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

Martin Mars waterbombers’ firefighting days are done

Wayne Coulson said his company still hopes to find a new home for the vintage aircraft

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Vegas Golden Knights have done the impossible and have a chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup

Most Read