Tsunamis, a Japanese word for “harbor waves”, are ocean waves that are produced by earthquakes. One hundred and six Alaskans died from tsunamis after the 1964 Alaskan earthquake, as well as 16 people in Oregon and Washington.
In the midst of a deep ocean a tsunami may travel as fast as 500 miles per hour…but is not necessarily dangerous because the wave may only be inches high. When that same wave approaches shallow waters, like the Cordova coastal areas, it may gain height dramatically and potentially become very dangerous. That is why Cordova has been installing tsunami sirens.
Approximately seven years ago, the city received a grant from the State of Alaska to acquire two tsunami sirens. One of those was successfully installed in the town center. Recently, that siren was replaced by a newer, state-of-the-art version, called an “audible “ siren. It has the capability of sending out a message along with the siren, as you may have heard. Every Wednesday, at noon, the siren will be tested. And, you may have noticed, it is loud. It needs to be loud in order to accomplish its goal.
The weekly TEST message will inform you that it is only a test and that, if it were a real event, everyone should tune into the local radio station (Again, we remind you…do you have a PORTABLE radio handy for emergencies??). If it were a REAL tsunami coming, the siren would clearly state that it is NOT a test. It would instruct everyone to move to higher ground and tune into the local radio station for more information.
Engineers have determined that Cordova actually needs to have four sirens to get full coverage. Two other sirens will be erected, one out near the ferry terminal and the other on Whitshed Road. Additionally, the city intends to eventually position one at Mile 6 Copper River Highway and, to that end, is in the process of trying to acquire land in that area. Once that is accomplished , a grant will be written to attain the fourth siren.
For more information, you may contact Cordova Volunteer Fire Department at 424-6117.
In the meantime, as always. Be prudent. Be ready. Be prepared.