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

B.C. freestyle skier wins gold

Cassie Sharpe of Comox shines in the halfpipe

UPDATED: Emergency crews rescue pregnant woman from Mount Finlayson

Langford and Metchosin respond to roughly four-hour-long rescue

Victoria police pay special attention to domestic violence

Workshop for officers and others shows how domestic abuse trauma impacts for a long time

Storm snuffs out lights on Saanich’s Ten Mile Point

Environment Canada wind warning calls for a brief “respite” before winds of up 90 kilometres resume

Thrilling finish to Royals weekend in Victoria

WHL club hosts Portland for a pair this Friday and Saturday at Save-On Centre

WATCH: Oak Bay hosts inaugural Vancouver Island Polar Plunge for Special Olympics BC

Local cops drag multi-media journalists out for a swim ahead of March 11 event

Victoria City rower medals at indoor world championships

Carl Schoch takes 2,000-metre sprint bronze in veteran category

Canadians find living in small spaces teaches creativity

Canadian families choosing to live in small spaces to bring closeness to children

B.C. man goes to jail for beating puppy to death

Robert Carolan has also been banned from owning animals for the next ten years

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Porch lights turn on for Canadian teen behind #BeccaToldMeTo movement

New Brunswick’s Rebecca Schofield had asked her Facebook followers to perform random acts of kindness

Saanich Braves earn top awards heading into playoffs

MVP, Coach of Year lead Braves against Kerry Park Islanders starting Tuesday

SAR suspends search for missing man at Sun Peaks

RCMP will continue to search for a missing man near Kamloops but SAR has suspended their role

Lottery will help save children’s lives

Each ticket gets you a chance to win a lot of money, while helping a lot of kids

Most Read