SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

When Heading For The Hills Won’t Help



January 29, 2015
Thursday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Tsunamis, shmunamis!

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Recent weather events have shown that our community concern about tsunamis is clearly aimed in the wrong direction!

Yes, we remain a low lying coastal community that I'm sure checks off all the federal disaster planning boxes.

Speaking of which, I think “federal disaster” is redundant, BTW.

But, anyway, how often are we inundated by the rising seas?

Not very.

And how often are we inundated by the freshwater waves that pour out of the clouds?


Speaking of salt water tsunamis, I am still a bit puzzled by the evacuation signage. Especially when I reach the corner of Bawden and Park Avenue and see the evacuation signs pointing in BOTH directions.

Now, that's an "abandon hope all ye who enter" scenario!

Especially in light of the week we just had when The Creek got a bit rambunctious and tsunamied over its banks. One of those signs was pointing right into the heart of Precipitapockalypse or Splashatron or Wetzilla or whatever you want to call it.

And then there are those tsunami "warning" announcements they have downtown
every Saturday after noon. First the siren and then the incomprehensible announcement, the only part I can make out is "this is only a test."

Thank God, for that.

Because if it is important (like "save my life" important!) information, I seem to be missing the boat, or the float as it may be. It reminds me of those announcements you hear in public places in large cities. Completely unintelligible. And those are the ones in English.

I was sitting on the deck a couple weeks ago when one of the local tsunami alerts went off.

"Was that in English?" my son asked in all seriousness.

I guess not.

But I digress.

Back to the freshwater tsunami.

Thank goodness for Facebook!

I have received numerous emails from folks (not here) noting how bad it looks in Our Fair Salmon City and saying they are sorry that my home town has been washed away in the flood.

It seems that they took seriously all to those posts of the Creek rising and splashing its way into Thomas Basin.

They mentally compared it to all those flooding photos we see each year when the Mississippi or the Missouri or the Red or the Assiniboine (my all-time favorite river name) get over supplied with snow melt and flood billions of acres of farmland that was vacant anyway. It is a great disaster, every year. Or it would be, if it was anywhere besides North Dakota being flooded.

Of course, that is not what happened here.

Yes, some folks on Freeman and Young streets got flooded, but it was hardly the whole town washing away like it may have appeared based on the posting, reposting and re-reposting of essentially the same photos of high water rumbling down the Creek.

Heck, even Tongass Avenue wasn’t all that flooded and everyone knows it’s not a “flood” unless most of Tongass is four or five inches under.

But all of our non-local friends are left with the impression that we really are “living underwater” in the First City.

Reminds me of when the Exxon Valdez spill happened. I was working for a newspaper back east and people were constantly telling me how sorry they were about my home town and I finally gave up trying to explain that only effect the spill was having on K-Town was the money that was spilling into the pockets of some enterprising local boat owners who hired their ships out for the cleanup.

“But it must be awful having all your beaches fouled with that oil. The seabirds! The seals. The penguins.”

Yes, one well-meaning person did express concern over how the oil was harming our penguins.

Then again, maybe she was on to something. I have not seen a single penguin hereabouts since the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Anyway, it didn’t help to try to explain to them that Ketchikan was to Valdez as Boston was to Detroit, more or less. They would have just noted that “what happens in Detroit, doesn’t stay in Detroit.”

And it won’t help no to try to explain that despite the dozens of gruesome photos on Facebook, Ketchikan has not been carried away by a flood clearly (and we have the pictures to prove it) greater than the one that vexed Noah and wiped out the rest of humanity.

Don’t get me wrong, 10 inches of rain in two days is unpleasant even by Ketchikan standards.

Ten inches is three times what Los Angeles County received in all of 2013. If we got five inches every day, that would be around 1,500 inches a year and we would all move somewhere else. Or we would be carried somewhere else in the arks we would slap together as soon as we figured out what a cubit was.

But it was just two days. It wasn’t 40.

It would have been an average monsoon downpour in Mawsynram, India which once got slightly over a 1,000 inches of rain one particularly precipitous year.

Of course, that rainfall happened before Facebook. Before we needed to take selfies of ourselves hanging over the Stedman Street Bridge as the water boiled under us in order to validate our personal exceptionalism.

Therefore, it didn’t actually happened.

Nothing happens unless we record it.

And post it on Facebook.

So I will just have to sit back and wait for the next tsunami.

The coming tsumani of overdramatic Facebook posts the next time that Our Fair Selfie City gets a weather event even slightly out of the ordinary.

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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