Tuesday, June 20, 2017

From Rain to Earthquake to Tsunami

Palmer, Alaska
Elk's Lodge

We knew rain was in the forecast but we didn't know we'd find out how tsunami warnings were predicted.

Maybe I need to back up a little to explain.  It rained lightly last night and was still raining this morning.  It was a day we enjoyed as we didn't even get dressed until after 9 am. I told Bill I wasn't getting dressed for awhile and he said "are you expecting company?"  At that point we had a noise at our door.  It was Boo wagging her tail and "calling" Bill. Bill opened the door to give her a treat and she came right up the steps and inside.  

I played on the computer while Bill and Boo played.  I googled indoor activities in Palmer.  It listed a few things.

We all decided to visit the Alaska Heritage Center since we had a 2 for 1 coupon in our tour saver book and it would be good to do on a cloudy day.  A few minutes later we were in the truck headed for the Mat Su Information Center as they were closed the last time we were going to stop.  

As we were going down the road and I saw this sign, I said there's the National Tsunami Warning Center.  I mentioned I'd seen it on a list of things to do and see.  Harry immediately made a U-turn. He seems to do that a lot when we're with him. 
It wasn't a huge building and I said I'd go to the door and see about a tour.  You had to ring a doorbell and have someone buzz you in.  A lady came to the door as I noticed the sign on the door that gave tour times for Friday tours.  I said we wanted a tour and told her I hadn't seen the Friday tour sign. She said actually they weren't having tours on Friday as an employee was retiring. She asked where I was from and started talking with me. She brought up a computer program and said they'd do one for us on Wednesday.  I said we were staying at the Elk's and could probably stay an additional day.  

This other man walked by and told the girl he'd do it right now.  She said, "nothing like having the director give the tour." I motioned to Carlena, Harry and Bill who were in the truck, to come in.  

Paul Huang invited us in to a conference room.  We chatted for awhile before he began a power point.  There was a lot of technical talk and a lot of math that I didn't understand, but he did a great job.  

I am sitting here trying to remember all the things we learned but powerless to be able to write about everything. There were charts that Paul had created.  We learned that a tsunami is faster than an airplane and has speeds of 600 kph. 

Another thing that surprised me was that they had one and half hours warning time before one hits.  Tsunami's are created not just by earthquakes but also volcano's and other rarer phenomenons I've already forgotten.

The safest place to be is out to sea, or far away from the shore.  Tsunami means harbor wave.  

Paul writes the software for the programs.  He's the one who called when the tsunami hit Japan.  He also showed us how the country sank.  There was also another one two days later.   

The computers are manned by two people 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

There are two exact computer consoles for each person. 

While Paul took over the computer, all at once an earthquake showed up on the screen.  It's showing on the right hand screen. They happen more often than I realized.  

Paul told us how vital the computers are to the world.  He used to work at IBM on Watson so that explains how he invents the software.

He took us into a secure room to show us the computers.  Then he walked over and the next thing I knew the computers were rocking back and forth like they were on a swing.

In case you didn't know it, Alaska has more earthquakes than the lower 48 states combined.  

There's a bank of phones that they call when they predict a tsunami and when I saw the one in the middle I thought of our friend, LC Boyer who works for FEMA.

It was a wonderful experience and I'm so thankful that we were at the right place at the right time to have a tour with Paul Huang, Ph.D.

There's no way anything could top that experience, but we found a close second.  The Alaska Native Heritage Center was much more than we expected.  We were so happy that the rain had quit earlier in the day as this was mostly an outdoor exhibit.  

The village consists of six dwellings representing 11 cultural groups.  In each dwelling there were a couple of hosts to tell you about how their people lived.  

The first of the six dwellings was a clan house.  We were told what all the totem poles said as they are books about the people.  

I asked what they used to carve the totem poles and was shown an old item, but then told, the new ones are made with modern knives.  

You had to be a little agile to get into the clan house.

Look at the size of this pole. 

The Unangax dwellings are made below the ground.  

The Alutiiq dwelling would have a smaller doorway to keep out bears.

I wish there would have been a sign by these so we'd know what they were.  All I know is they were bones and they are big.

The interior of the Inupiaq, even had a skylight.  We learned that polar bears are not good for food other than to feed the dogs. 

Any wood used in these dwellings were driftwood.  They did not use fires in them.

The Athabascan site was much nicer.

We marveled at the respect these clans give to bears.  This is where they store their food and bear grease was placed on the pole legs to prevent bears from climbing them.

When we returned to the Heritage Center, there was a gathering place that had speakers from 9 to 4:30 covering many different subjects from dance, storytelling, games and map introduction.  There was also a theater that we forgot to check out.

There was another section called the Hall of Cultures that had a cultural gallery and artist studios.  

We stopped at Sam's Club where Harry topped off his diesel at $2.44 a gallon.  We stopped at Red Robin for dinner before heading home.  

It was a great day, even though it started out with a little rain.  

Turtle Safely.......


  1. That Tsunami warning centre really sounds fascinating, you did get lucky to catch a private tour right away.

  2. Too bad you missed the dancing performances inside the Heritage Center. But you did get to see the rest, which we found just as interesting as you did. The bones Bill's standing between are whale jawbones that were used to mark the site of a village to help fishermen find their way home. (I had to look it up in my blog from 6 years ago. Alaska Native Heritage Center June 28, 2011.) We missed the Tsunami center - guess we'll have to go back.

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  4. Wow you had a wonderful experience! I'm exploring US with your blog, it's amazing!

  5. Very interesting. The Tsunami center sounds very neat. We may have to go back to Alaska.

    1. Absolutely, don't pass up a chance to visit it.

  6. Unfortunately I got to experience a tsunami first had when I was not quite 13. I lived in Prince Rupert, BC. The earthquake shook everything. Stuff flew off the counters. My house was just 3 houses away so of course I ran for my mother. It was brief and we were all fine. The next day the most shocking part was all the fish boats smashed up on the shore.


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