March 11, 2011 Tsunami
Tsunami Hits Port of Brookings-Harbor
March 11, 2011
When the news hit the wires that an underseas earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 had occurred 50 miles East of Japan's Oshika Peninsula at 05:46 UTC on Friday, March 11, 2011, the Oregon coast was immediately put on a "Tsunami warning". The time in Brookings was 10:46 p.m., Thursday, March 10, 2011.
Preparedness Paid Off
Earthquake Preparedness (Education & Monthly Tsunami Warning Siren Training) allowed an orderly implementation of emergency procedures and, the only "unknown" was the "WHEN" will the 1st SURGE invade our harbor and can we withstand its fury?
Ted Fitzgerald, manager of the Port of Brookings-Harbor knew by the tone in Chris Cantwells voice that this day would be one he'd not soon forget. As he headed toward the Port, he strategized, knowing a well thought out plan would be his best ally. He prepared for the predicted high waves by tying up boats and coordinating activities that were going to be impacted by the Tsunami. He notified Michaelle Hamblin, Manager of the Port's Beachfront RV Park and she and her son Tyler quickly moved the 15 people from the Beachfront RV Park located between the harbor and the ocean, to higher grounds.
At the last contact with the U.S. Coast Guard, Ted knew that there were twelve commercial vessels, (some of the largest of the 400-boat fleet) that took off early, their skippers knowing the safest place to be was out to sea. Those boats crossed the Bar of the Chetco River by 6 a.m.
According to reports from the Coast Guard, he was told that five of their helicopters had flown over the coastline. Lt. Jason Reeder reported that they had a" bird's-eye view" of residents evacuating coastal towns and emphasized that "the Coast Guard pilots were impressed by the orderly evacuation".
Jeff Manning, The Oregonian, March 12, 2011
First Tidal Surge
Friday, March 11 @ 08:00 PST
As the first Tidal Surge pushed up the Chetco River, it continued to strengthen and as it "met the river", both forces carved their way into the Port and "onlookers" held their breath just waiting for the forces to impact anything in its way.
According to the Ford Institute, Leadership Class Project: "Tsunami surges traveled between the jetties and into the Port. The force of the Tsunami actually stopped the outward flow of the rain-swollen Chetco River, and redirected the water into both basins causing major damage.
The information in the above paragraph is posted on one of the metal plates on the boardwalk railings and is considered "geologically sound".
Third Wave Was the Deadliest
Chris Cantwell, the Port's Operation Supervisor recalls "between 08:30 and 10:00, we experienced three waves. Ironically, it wasn't the size of the waves that inflicted the damage, but the current and power". Chris had been at the Port since receiving the news about the Japanese earthquake at 02:00 and knew he had not yet seen the damage he was sure that would come and then, the Third Deadly Wave made its entrance!
Damage Inflicted - Boat Basins
When that Third power surge hit, it literally was "flipping boats on top of one another". Boats were damaged, sunk, set adrift and seven were swept out to sea after docks were torn away and pilings broken.
Chris Cantwell said: "70% of the Port's Commercial Basin was destroyed and a third of our sports basin including 'A' dock, which was uprooted. The surge chewed up the foundation of the steel wall where fishing boats often moor to use the public hoist and, as the surge propelled through the Commercial Basin, it further ravaged the wall as it snapped the wood and bent steel pilings".
Thomas Boyd, Oregonian, March 12, 2011
Vintage Vessel Lost
Robert Butson's 1929, 92-foot Lion's Whelp, a wooden schooner built in Maine, sank and all that remains of it are the odd bits of wood poking from the 18-foot pile of tsunami rubble.
Tsunami, "Meet" Haida
Shortly after 09:30 (PST), Ted Fitzgerald's phone rang and summoned him back to the Port. A sailboat had broken loose in the first surge that arrived at 09:30 and was swept into the pier and smashed into the Haida, a 230-ton fishing vessel (owned by Michael Smith) - the biggest in the harbor - knocking it loose. Waves knocked it around the harbor like a pinball, Fitzgerald said, "smashing and sinking boats". The Haida was under renovation and was stripped of its engines.
Lori Tobias, The Oregonian, June 08, 2011
It's not hard to imagine how Michael Smith felt late on that morning of March 11, 2011, when he heard the rumbling rush of water before he saw it. Then he watched from the bow of the Haida as the surge from the Tsunami combine with the Chetco River and funneled toward him. "I had one chance to get the boat anchored or it would have wrecked the whole harbor", said Smith.
Damage In Economic/Monetary Terms
First estimates of damages caused by the March 11, 2011 Tsunami to the Port are approximately "$7 Million Dollars PLUS lost Revenue (disruption in day-to-day Port business activities) of around $300,000."
March 22, 2011
Governor, John Kitzhaber has asked President Barack Obama to issue a disaster declaration for Curry County ravaged by a tsunami on Friday, March 11, 2011. The damage forced the Port to close temporarily, choking off a key economic engine in an area affected by high unemployment. The destruction was extensive, buckling docks and sinking boats, severely undermining the foundation of the steel wall where boats often moor to use the public hoist.
Our Goal Is To End Up With As Good A Port As Possible
Ted Fitzgerald, Manager of the Port of Brookings-Harbor, has continued to maintain an optimistic projection on both securing financing assistance and rebuilding structures that were demolished. He said: "Our goal is to end up with as good a Port as possible. We won't be able to recover the lost revenue, but hopefully, we'll end up with a viable steel and usable public hoist and all of the docks rebuilt to the standard they were, but new".
Lori Tobias, The Oregonian, June 08, 2011
March 22, 2011
Governor Kitzhaber receives Disaster Teams estimation of Port of Brookings-Harbor damages at $6.7 million and noted that "failure to quickly repair the Port would cost the community $10 million in lost revenue from commercial and recreational fishing. The tsunami left 40% of docks destroyed or unusable, including one leased by the U.S. Coast Guard".
Allocation of Economic Resources (Chronological Order)
Reconstruction of the Port of Brookings-Harbor
March 15, 2011: Governor Kitzhaber Declares State of Emergency
"A signed executive order from the Governor declaring a state of emergency for Curry County sets in motion a state and federal process for applying for federal disaster assistance. The Governor is accelerating the arrival of state and federal disaster assistance teams in Curry County and has established a Governor's Recovery Cabinet".
If Curry County meets the federal criteria, President Obama would receive a request from the Governor asking for a disaster declaration and federal assistance from FEMA.
March 22, 2011: Oregon Business Development Commission (OBDC)
Governor's office reported that OBDC has identified a $40,000 Grant for engineering expenses related to building new docks that would be used with future federal funding for other Port reconstruction. Additionally, a $500,000 Grant could also be expended with the same federal funding - for similar Port reconstruction.
Port of Brookings-Harbor Debt Payment - Suspended
During this same time period, the Governor's office reported that the State Agency has suspended payments on the Port's debt in an attempt to relieve some of the debt burden during this fiscal emergency.
A call to the Port of Brookings-Harbor Commissioner, Jim Relaford, and Treasurer, on October 15, 2011, stated: "Yes, this is accurate. The Port began to re-assume this debt payment in the month of September, 2011."
March 25, 2011: Federal Emergency Management Agency
Two weeks after an earthquake in Japan sent a tsunami rippling along the Southern Oregon coast, FEMA announced it will fund repairs and replace damaged infrastructure in Curry County".
June 10, 2011: Press Release of Senator Wyden
Wyden, Merkley, and DeFazio Applaud FEMA Grant for Brookings:
"Washington, D.C. - Congressman Peter DeFazio and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced the Port of Brookings-Harbor will receive $1.2 million from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to replace docks destroyed by the March 11, 2011 Tsunami".
"I toured the Port days after the tsunami. The staff at the Port had done an incredible job cleaning up the damage the tsunami caused, but it was clear they were going to need significant assistance if the Port was to get back on its feet. This grant goes a long way toward that end. I am pleased that FEMA has designated the money needed to help the hard working community-members as they rebuild the docks destroyed and rehabilitate the docks that survived," said DeFazio.
As was reported in the Eugene, Oregon paper, Register-Guard on May 12th, federal grants cover 75% of costs associated with damage in disaster areas. The remaining 25% is covered by the applicant which in this case, is the state of Oregon. In addition to the $1.2 million from FEMA, the state will have to match a $400,000 allocation to the Port of Brookings-Harbor for repairs.
Senator, Jeff Merkley recalls: "The Tsunami devastated the Port of Brookings but the community rallied back almost immediately. This funding is just part of what will be needed to repair the damage. But thanks to the hard work of community leaders, Brookings is getting the attention and resources it needs".
Brookings Port Repairs Begin
August 11, 2011: Funding Chase Yields Success
"One of the final funding pieces was put in place when the Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA) approved interim financing for the required FEMA program match. The federal government will provide $5.3 million in federal emergency management (FEMA) funds for the project.
The IFA $1.4 million loan to the Port to allow it to begin repairs immediately and will be combined with more than $500,000 of grant funding from the IFA's Special Public Works and Port Planning and Marketing funds.
The federal grant is for repair and replacement of approximately 3,630 feet of floating docks that were swept away or destroyed. The damage affected facilities in the harbors, commercial and recreational basins, including facilities fro the U.S. Coast Guard, which in 2010 performed 100 search and rescue missions from the harbor. Half of the economy for the Brookings area is directly related to the commercial fishing and recreational boating provided out of Brookings Harbor."