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Tsunami scare along Wash. coast serves as reminder to be prepared

Tsunami scare along Wash. coast serves as reminder to be prepared

The Alaska earthquake and the possibility of a tsunami reaching the Washington coast had everyone there on alert for a time. The warning was quickly cancelled on Friday, but it was a good reminder to have stuff ready to go in a hurry.

People on the shoreline were watching the water in case any aftershocks produced waves. Fortunately, the tsunami alert that went out with the earthquake didn't turn into anything along the Washington coast.

"I definitely liked hearing that," said Hannah Cleverly of Grays Harbor Emergency Management. "My heart started to race a little bit as I'm sure everyone's did."

Cleverly said, "It's a good reminder for all of our citizens and all of us that live in a tsunami activation area that we should be prepared for that to happen."

They have seen the destruction that can come with a tsunami like with what happened after a major earthquake in Japan in 2011. Whole towns were washed away. What they learned is that if you can't outrun the water, it's best to get above it.

The people living in Westport voted to help build a vertical evacuation building 54-feet above sea level.

"There's 50,000 pounds of rebar in each tower and the walls are 14 inches thick of concrete," said Steve Schmeling of the Ocosta School District. The emergency platform is touted as tsunami-proof and is the only one of its kind in the country.

There is room for up to 2,000 people, the population of Westport. It's on top of the newly rebuilt Ocosta Elementary School and right next door to the junior and senior high. The students have been practicing to get up there in five minutes.

"In the case of an event, just like what happened today (Friday) we need a place to go," said Schmeling.

Franki Cioci had never been up to see it if before. " I think it's pretty awesome," she said.

Cioci is now is on the staff at the school where her son attends. "He's like 'oh, if there's a tsunami we'll be together.' So it's always kind of cool."

"It's a little nerve wracking," said Heather Sweet of the possible tsunami threat. "Until you really know and you hear from emergency management, 'okay what do we need to do because that day is going to come.'"

Sweet is the former elementary principal and helped oversee the building of the tower.

The nearby Shoalwater Indian Tribe already has a federal grant to build a tsunami-proof tower down the coast. Aberdeen and Ocean Shores are applying to get money to do the same in their towns.

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