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

Belmont junior boys basketball team feels confident heading to the provincial championships

The Bulldogs were one of the top four Island teams that made it to the tournament.

Ground breaking for Belmont residences takes place next week

Community to meet team developing the space on the former Belmont Secondary school site

West Shore athletes eye spot at Youth Olympic Games

Online fundraising campaign aims to help May sisters compete at trials

Metchosin Baha’i event supports region’s homeless

Towels, toothbrushes and socks to be collected for Our Place’s bath program

Royal Roads University and First Nations Technology Council partner for tech education

The program provides six technical and innovation streams to indigenous groups

President praises nearly 1,800 volunteers at B.C. Games

Ashley Wadhwani sits down with the Kamloops 2018 B.C. Winter Games President Niki Remesz

The way government learn someone has died is getting a digital overhaul

Governments in Canada turned to private consultants 2 years ago to offer blueprint

Bobsleigh team misses Olympic medal finish

Canadian team finishes four-man event 0.84 seconds behind first place, 0.31 seconds from podium

B.C. Games: Athletes talk Team Canada at PyeongChang 2018

From Andi Naudie to Evan McEachran there’s an Olympian for every athlete to look up to

Minor injuries after car veers into Courtenay dance studio

A driver and passenger were taken to hospital after their vehicle crashed… Continue reading

Snowboarders sliding into fresh territory at B.C. Games

Athletes hit the slopes for first appearance as an event at the B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops

Cougars hold upper hand on Westshore in VIJHL South semifinal

Victoria leads series 2-0, games 3 and 4 go tonight and tomorrow

Looking back at the 1979 B.C. Games: Good memories, even better jackets

39 years later, Kamloops is hosting the Winter Games again, with some volunteers returning

OLYMPICS 101: Oldest and youngest Canadians to reach the podium

This year, Canada sent its most athletes in Winter Games history, here’s a look at record breakers

Most Read