UPDATE: Tsunami warning causes evacuations, closures throughout North Coast

Emergency BC issued the warning after a 7.9 earthquake off Alaska early Tuesday morning

  • Jan. 23, 2018 12:00 a.m.

It was a long night for many residents along B.C.’s northern coast.

The National Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for coastal B.C. after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake occurred 279 kms off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska, early Tuesday morning.

“There is no imminent threat, but please continue to stay away from waterfront areas due to potential extreme currents,” the City of Prince Rupert said in a tweet at 4:21 a.m.

READ MORE: Is Prince Rupert prepared for an earthquake?

The Prince Rupert Port Authority were forced to shut down down operations at the Atlin Terminal, Ridley Island and Fairview Terminal when they became aware of the tsunami warning as a precaution. Employees were evacuated.

Kris Schumacher, communications coordinator for the port authority said staff from the Port Security Office Centre (PSOC) set up a road block on the highway outside of Ridley Island to prevent inbound traffic.

“Our PSOC were in contact with all the authorites, coast guard, first responders, to ensure a coordinated effort,” Schumacher said.

There were other areas on the North Coast that were also evacuated. Residents of Kitamaat Village evacuated to higher ground following the tsunami alert.

Kitimaat village evacuation

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The City of Prince Rupert was notified of a tsunami threat in the area by EmergencyInfoBC.

“As soon as our staff received notice of the earthquake, our Emergency Operations Centre was initiated and Emergency staff gathered at the Fire Hall,” said Dave McKenzie, Prince Rupert Fire Chief, in the city press release.

An Emergency Reception Centre was also activated at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, just in case, to receive evacuees. “Staff were in direct contact with Emergency Management BC who provided updates regarding the warning status. Based on available data, it was not necessary to call a local state of emergency,” McKenzie said.

READ MORE: Lax Kw’alaams Band sounds new alarm on tsunamis

In Port Edward, a emergency shelter was established at the recreation centre where approximately 10 people went during the warning. Shawn Pettitt, the Port Edward Fire Chief, was there giving updates as he received them. At 4 a.m. they were told they could go back to their boats and their homes.

The tsunami warning was issued at 2:06 a.m. and was later lifted at 4:14 a.m. The port authority informed all its tenants and partners the warning was cancelled and port-based operations continued as normal.

During the holding period, RCMP and fire crews patrolled waterfront areas during this time to monitor the situation and ensure residents were at a safe distance from “potential tide events.”

“RCMP and [the] fire department were poised to initiate evacuation procedures by notifying residents door to door should it be required. The highest wave recorded on the BC Coast was located at Langara, BC, and was 12.2 cm,” Veronika Stewart, communications manager for the City of Prince Rupert, stated in a press release.

READ MORE: 6.2 earthquake shakes residents in northern B.C.

During the warning, the city stated that many residents took high ground at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, but the city said this prevented clear access for emergency traffic. In future tsunami warnings, the city asks that residents avoid the surrounding hospital area and use the Emergency Reception Centre at the civic centre instead.

“The City of Prince Rupert is currently commissioning a study to identify local inundation zones that will be at risk for flooding in the event of a tsunami event. This will further inform the city’s Emergency Response Plan and priorities for evacuation in the event of a tsunami in future,” Stewart said.

The warning affects went beyond the North Coast and Haida Gwaii. Coastal areas of British Columbia from Attu, Alaska to the Washington State coastline were notified of a potential tsunami.

city of Prince Rupert

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With files from Susie Quinn

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