Alaska’s Tsunami-Warning Alert System Worries Confusion to Officials


Anchorage, Alaska—Local officials warned that public mistrust in the warning system could be caused by confusion surrounding an emergency notice that Alaska residents in places not at risk of a potential tsunami received after a significant weekend earthquake. 

People were advised to leave low-lying areas late Saturday after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake about 70 miles (111 kilometers) south of Sand Point sparked a temporary tsunami warning for portions of southern Alaska. 

The Anchorage Daily News said that although they were not at risk of a tsunami, people as far away as Alaska also received tsunami alerts on their phones. 

The National Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning late on Saturday that was effective from a region 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Homer to an area 80 miles (128.7 kilometers) northeast of Unalaska. Afterwards, it was lowered to an advisory before being canceled. 

Emergency management and tsunami experts both asserted that they were acting in accordance with their procedures, which err on the side of caution and speed.. Others, though, are concerned that ambiguity over whether the tsunami actually presented a threat could damage public confidence in the warning system. 

Read also: Siren heard in Alaska town after 7.2-magnitude earthquake

Alerts May Not Convince People anymore.

The Homer, Alaska, police chief, Mark Robl, said dispatchers there received “hundreds of phone calls an hour” after the warning was issued. Both emergency managers and tsunami experts insisted that they were following established procedures, which lean on the side of caution and speed.

A powerful earthquake may cause an energy release that could result in a devastating wave. An automated alarm is sent out when such an incident is detected by sensitive instruments. Jim Gridley, director of the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, stated that there isn’t enough time to immediately confirm whether such a wave is forming. 

We immediately issue a warning because we need to get everyone nearby out of harm’s way, he explained. When a wave is building and its size is known, experts at the center evaluate data from buoys and other devices, according to Gridley. 

Warnings are changed or canceled, although he said that this process can take up to an hour. Localized emergency reactions, such as the blaring of sirens advising citizens to seek higher ground, may also be sparked by alerts from the center.

Read also: Tsunami advisory issued for North American West coast

Source: ABC News

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