Thursday, June 14, 2007
Pacific Grove’s Rec Trail between Hopkins Marine Station and Lovers Point is a particularly peaceful stretch of coast. Showcasing wildlife and waves, the trail draws a steady flow of tourists and locals seeking seaside Zen. It’s a place I’d like to take my parents—but maybe not my sister, who’s terrified of natural disasters. Every 200 yards or so, an informational sign would remind her that a gargantuan wave could sweep our family out to sea.
PG’s new signs feature a human figure charging up a steep hill. An enormous wave crests behind him, and there’s no doubt that it’s going to clobber him. The text: “Tsunami Hazard Zone. In case of earthquake go to high ground or inland.”
The 25 signs, posted along the coast from Eardley Avenue to the border of Asilomar State Beach, represent a part of the countywide Tsunami Incidence Response Plan. “When this is all said and done, we’ll have signs all along the Monterey coastline,” says Fire Chief Andrew Miller. “We’re trying to be proactive, not scare people.”
Miller’s department is responsible for making sure people know what to do if big salty disaster strikes. Not all tremblers cause tsunamis; the department is mainly concerned with quakes registering 7.5 or higher on the Richter scale.
In the case of a teletsunami caused by a big earthquake far away—like off the coast of Japan or the Aleutian islands—Pagrovians would have an hour or two to prepare. Monterey County Emergency Services would activate the Emergency Broadcast System on radio and TV, and the Teleminder phone system would call 310 PG homes less than 30 feet above sea level. Police and fire officers would move in to get people off the Rec Trail, Oceanview Boulevard and Sunset Drive, stashing them in the Temporary Evacuation Center at PG High.
Then there’s the possibility of a tsunami generated by a near-shore earthquake—in which case people would only have a few minutes to react. That’s where the signs come in. “If there’s an earthquake, you need to get to high ground and wait for information,” Miller says.
On a sunny morning on the Rec Trail, the reaction from passersby is mixed.
“It’s quite unusual to see such a sign in a tourist place. I think it’s useful, though,” says Belgian visitor Dimitri Mawet. He strikes a sprinting pose like the figure in the sign. “Rush in another direction!”
PG resident Carol McCarty, out for a walk with her dog, is appreciative. “I know it’s important, and it just makes me think it could happen here,” she says.
But Jim Kistler, strolling with his wife Hazel, has a different opinion. “I think they’re crazy!” he says, white eyebrows lifting. “We’re not going to see that here. I think they should take it down.”