Stay Eat Events Weather Beaches

Looking Back: 10-Yr Anniversary of Tsunami Scare on Oregon Coast

Published 03/11/21 at 7:20 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Looking Back: 10-Yr Anniversary of Tsunami Scare on Oregon Coast

(Oregon Coast) - On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 undersea quake hit close to the coastline of Japan, wreaking all kinds of havoc and destruction in the Tōhoku area, and causing more than one tsunami that dealt even deadlier blows to the nation. What’s often known as the Great Sendai Earthquake of 2011 killed 15,000 people.

Here in the states, it often gets the misnomer “Fukushima Quake,” largely a leftover from the conspiracy theorists who clung tightly to the false notions about radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant making it to the U.S.

Latest Coastal Lodging News Alerts
In Seaside:
Includes exclusive listings; major specials now that winter is here
In Cannon Beach:
Includes rentals not listed anywhere else
In Manzanita, Wheeler, Rockaway Beach:
major specials for winter
In Pacific City, Oceanside:
Winter's enticing specials now
In Lincoln City:
Major winter specials now
In Depoe Bay, Gleneden Beach:
major specials this season
In Newport:
Look for many specials
In Waldport
New amenities offered; specials and tempting prices now
In Yachats, Florence
Big deals available; lodgings not listed anywhere else
Southern Oregon Coast Hotels / Lodgings
Reedsport to Brookings, places to stay; winter deals

The real names – including Tōhoku Earthquake of 2011 and others – describe an event that also had a profound effect on the Oregon coast, as well as Washington and California. It created a tsunami scare here late at night on the 10th, lasting well into the morning of the 11th.

It’s ten years ago today all that took place, and Oregon Coast Beach Connection covered it in-depth, moment-by-moment, as coastal residents fled their homes in the middle of the night. Despite the fear, the evacuations were orderly, and Oregon officials were rather impressed by how locals and visitors had handled the whole thing so smoothly.

It all began about 9 p.m. on March 10, as media outlets broke the news throughout the world about the devastation. Locally, news stations stayed on the air well past 11:30, awaiting word on if any tsunami may be expected on the Oregon coast. Indeed, by 1 a.m. a full tsunami warning was issued and the public was told to evacuate the coast.

One extremely powerful moment was watching the news team from KGW Channel 8 talking to a USGS scientist live. When he announced that six-foot waves were quite possible for Cannon Beach and Seaside, you could see the newscasters’ faces go white. They fell silent and were momentarily wordless.

In Florence, the alarms went off around 3 a.m. In Seaside and Cannon Beach, it was closer to 5 a.m., but evacuations by bullhorn began closer to 1 a.m. In Lincoln City and most parts of Tillamook County, sirens finally fired off around 5 a.m.

Some places never had the sirens go off.

Traffic on the coast range passes got heavy and problematic. Ice became an issue on the summits.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection’s site crashed over and over due to people all over the world checking our constant updates. We were receiving new information every few minutes from evacuees out there. In Pacific City, things were going smoothly, one witness said: “We were incredibly prepared.”

Between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m., Warren House employee Shawn Lamunyon called Oregon Coast Beach Connection’s Portland office and said the roads were busy with people trying to head out. But in Seaside, where at least one extra gas station opened up to keep up with the demand, there were near-traffic jam conditions with people in line to get gas. Later TV reports showed lines 20 cars deep at times, as this was the only gas available for residents of other nearby towns like Cannon Beach and Manzanita.

By this time, Lamunyon had packed up some belongings and his massive dog Wookie and was hightailing it for the hills. To where?, he was asked.

“I don’t know yet,” Lamunyon said.

Emergency vehicles with bullhorns were going around Cannon Beach and warning people. Sirens went off in Manzanita several times but not until after 5 a.m.

In Cannon Beach, The Ocean Lodge started handing out blankets and other goodies to evacuees of that oceanfront hotel.

Those on higher ground had the option to leave but weren’t required to, such as some lodgings up high at Lincoln City’s Roads End area.

Around 3 a.m., Lincoln County Emergency Management personnel told Oregon Coast Beach Connection they were readying the sirens and telling people to get at least 50 feet above sea level.

Two vacation rental businesses in Lincoln City at the time said they heard no sirens. Both had to alert some guests to hightail it out.


One big element would be telling for what kind of damage the tsunami would create here: what would it do when it hit Hawaii? When the wave came ashore there about 5 a.m. or so, it wasn’t a massive one. This was a good sign.

Soon, the USGS changed its tune and predicted only a small, probably-indiscernible wave would hit here about 8 a.m.

By and large that was true, except on the southern Oregon coast. There, one California man dared the larger incoming wave and was swept out to sea. Four people were injured near Gold Beach trying to experience this first-hand. In Newport, there was footage of one man getting knocked over hard by a wave that was bigger than people thought.

A little later in the day, Port Orford’s marina was slammed by a delayed wave, causing millions of dollars in damage. Depoe Bay also got smacked badly in the bay, damaging boats as well.

The aftermath of the Japanese tsunami lasted for a few years, with a ton of sometimes-spooky stuff showing up along the Oregon coast, including invasive species.

Oregon Coast Hotels in this area - South Coast Hotels - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours


MORE PHOTOS BELOW





Photo below courtesy Seaside Aquarium: Japanese tsunami debris found later



Below: tsunami debris boat found in Cannon Beach

More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....

More About Oregon Coast Restaurants, Dining.....

 



Coastal Spotlight


LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles

Biplane Ride Near Florence a Joyful Thrill Ride Above Central Oregon Coast
Tomeny Aero takes you up around Florence, the lighthouse, Yachats or the dunes
A Tale of Two Oregon Coast Blobs and Their Past: One You Know, One You Don't
A fiery, jolting geologic history at Cascade Head, Cape Meares. Neskowin, Oceanside, geology
Parade, Food Contests and Explosions for Central Oregon Coast: Florence's Fourth
Florence will be lighting up with fun and frivolity for the Fourth of July
Summer Solstice Along Oregon / Washington Coast: Astronomy Parties, Curious F...
The longest day of the year and the beginning of summer on these NW beaches
Washington Coast Opens Ocean Salmon Season With Good Numbers
Sport anglers will soon get their first opportunities to catch wild salmon
50 Years of Cannon Beach's Coaster Theater - A Party, A Look at Oregon Coast ...
June 29 Cannon Beach's Coaster Theatre puts on a '70s party
1919 Wreck of J.A. Chanslor on South Oregon Coast Left 36 Dead Near Cape Blanco
Conditions were shifting on the morning of December 18, 1919. Port Orford, history
Chasing A Special Moon Up Highway 101: Oregon Coast Astronomy Adventures
An actual car chase for a story at Yachats, Waldport, Newport, Depoe Bay

Back to Oregon Coast

Contact Advertise on BeachConnection.net
All Content, unless otherwise attributed, copyright BeachConnection.net Unauthorized use or publication is not permitted