The low-lying Long Beach Peninsula would seem to be the ideal candidate for a tsunami. Over the past 50 years there have been a handful of tidal wave alarms, but barely a sign of the actual item itself.
"Tidal Wave Alarm Brought Fast Action," read the 1952 headline. "Mayor Norman A. Howerton, Ilwaco, at about 3 p.m. Tuesday had a call from U.S. Coast Guard advising him at about 3 p.m. Tuesday that huge wave, traveling at a fast speed might strike the coast and do much damage.
"State Patrolman Joe Hair and Deputy Sheriff Jack Nyberg both picked up the alarm and with assistance by Ilwaco and Long Beach volunteer fire departments started immediate evacuation of all persons from towns in the area to higher ground. [The] Long Beach ambulance loud speaker was used in alarming folks of the area who were told of having 15 minutes to clear ahead of the wave which was said to be traveling at 700 miles per hour.
"Folks in this vicinity were more or less keyed up owing to Sunday's freak wave which hit the Washington and Oregon coast lines at low water, destroying one child on Oregon's beach and giving others on both Oregon and Washington beaches a scare; so when Tuesday's alarm ... hit here, a speedy evacuation was made. The ambulance made its run north to Nahcotta warning all folks along the way. ...
"Folks were given the all-clear at about 4 p.m. and returned to their homes."
-Nov. 7, 1952
"For a second time, a tidal wave was reported heading this way from the Aleutians owing to the recent Adak, Alaska, earthquake which created a reported 6.7 foot wave, according to a call to this newspaper from Washington State Patrol. ... the wave was to have reached here at about 11 a.m. Saturday but very likely the wave went as the previous one, out toward Honolulu."
-Mar. 15, 1957
"A small tidal wave of about one or two feet which hit Tokeland Monday morning did no damage, but a warning reached this Long Beach area the night before that a tidal wave from 10 to 20 feet was due to hit Long Beach, Ilwaco, and Ocean Park between 3:30 and 4 o'clock Monday. However nothing came of it. ...
"Four persons from Ocean Park checked in at the Willapa Hotel in Raymond at 2:30 a.m. They said they 'weren't taking any chances.' Coast Guard officials said if a 10 or 20 foot tidal wave hit Pacific county, Raymond would be probably affected as much as Ocean Park or other Peninsula communities."
-May 27, 1960
"Although the tidal wave which followed the tragic Alaska earthquake last Friday evening did tremendous destruction at Crescent City, California, some damage at Seaside and other resort towns along Oregon coast, the wave fortunately passed by this Long Beach peninsula with only slight differential in the tide.
"According to Cape Disappointment Coast Guard, Astoria radio stations were kept (unofficially) informed of the tidal wave action, and directions of its route. No civilian defense alert was put out here, but numerous local people kept an ear on the radio reports.
"Cape Disappointment officials were ordered to evacuate the Cape station, leaving only a skeleton crew. All but three Coast Guardsmen left the premises and to high ground in Ilwaco. All of the Cape life saving boats were moored in Astoria as a safeguard against destructive water. Coastguardsmen ordered campers at Fort Canby onto higher ground at North Head, and also picked up four teenagers, camping at Beards Hollow, and took them to the Cape station. The young lads' car had been left too near the water, and [was] caught by a high wave."
-Apr. 3, 1964
"Lee Wiegardt, local oyster grower and packer ... stated ... an unusual tide effect occurred on Willapa bay oyster land Saturday. Workmen went onto the beds about 6 a.m., presumably two hours before low water, and within 30 minutes, the tide water started rising, sufficiently high to run the workmen to their boats. Then within another short period of time, the water receded for the usual run out."
-Apr. 3, 1964
"Sleepy eyes and yawning faces prevailed among peninsula residents at whistle-blowing time Thursday morning as a follow-up of a 2 a.m. area evacuation owing to a tidal wave alarm, people returning to their homes between 5 and 5:30 a.m. An earthquake originating in the Amchitka island area, off Alaska, was given as cause for the wave which was believed traveling toward United States. ...
"Sirens in Long Beach, Ocean Park and Ilwaco were sounded, and put people on the run for high ground. ...
"It was brought up by some interested individuals that a better alarm system should be set up for the Peninsula district so the general public could differentiate between a fire siren and an evacuation alarm. In earlier civil defense days it was brought out that evacuation emergencies should be denoted by an unbroken continuous siren blast, whereas, the fire alarms are denoted by broken blasts."
-Feb. 5, 1965
"Editorial. A second tidal wave alert has come to this area, and both times found our area pretty well unorganized, other than for good work by law enforcement agencies and volunteer firemen.
"The thing most needed throughout this Peninsula is a suitable alarm system. ... The fire sirens caused confusion.
"We are in need of sirens like those used in cities, with long, loud continuous blast. Anyone listening to the evacuation blasts of city sirens knows very well they are not taken for fire sirens."
-Feb. 12, 1965
"At a meeting in Long Beach fire hall Wednesday night, 28 representatives from all over Pacific county discussed methods of warning and evacuation of people should a tidal wave or other disaster be reported to hit this area."
-Mar. 5, 1965
Editorial. Saturday morning's fire alarm for Long Beach Tavern brought home realization that there soon must be some sort of separate alarm for disaster in order to stop a multitude of telephone calls to the dial office inquiring as to whether a siren blast is for a fire or for evacuation. ... To date we've heard nothing from the Peninsula group which was formed here recently to work out an alarm system to differentiate between fire and disaster calls. It is likely we'll be given a report just as soon as a solution is worked out."
-Mar. 26, 1965
"People of this area were taken by surprise at 8:30 a.m. Thursday when an earthquake of some 45 seconds' duration took place. According to radio reports, the quake was felt as far south as Coquille, Oregon, and as far north as Canada and also produced shock in Yakima and Portland. The Washington state capitol was closed to undergo inspection. In Seattle two were killed and others injured."
-Apr. 30, 1965
"Another tidal wave alert was put out in this area last Friday at 5:45 p.m. and remained until 7:40 p.m. when the emergency was canceled by the State Civil Defense. ... There was no siren sounded in this city, but the word was passed around by word of mouth, sending hundreds of people to higher ground while others remained in town. Four favored high-ground spots for peninsula people are North Head, school hill in Ilwaco, Fort Columbia and Bear River hill."
-July 9, 1965
"Cow column [editorial column]. Tidal wave reports here are becoming as common as the 12 o'clock news. ... Maybe 'we all' are reaching the point of 'wolf, wolf.' If we are, it's not good. Anything can happen any time, and our adverse thinking does not change the picture."
-July 9, 1965
"A large part of the Peninsula low-land population took to the hills at about 2 a.m. Tuesday morning when information arrived over TV and radio that the civilian defense advised such people to evacuate to await results from the tidal wave caused by an earthquake in Peru. ... The all-clear was put out from the local headquarters at 4:16 a.m."
-Oct. 21, 1966
"A tidal wave alert arrived here at 9 a.m. Thursday morning coming from the State Civilian Defense to Pacific County sheriff's office and from the sheriff's office to Fire Chief Palmer Biggness who released the siren. The original report came from a ship skipper at sea who informed that three 10 to 12 foot waves had struck their vessel and were headed for Long Beach area."
-July 21, 1967
"A second earthquake in Japan Thursday morning caused a tidal wave alert on Washington beaches. State Patrol personnel, Pacific County deputy sheriffs of this area, local police and fire department members set up guards at all approaches to stop traffic from going out onto the sands ... At press-time no unusual surf action had appeared."
-May 17, 1968
On an afternoon in May of 1986 there would be another alert, and another evacuation while fire sirens howled. There was still no distinctive tsunami alarm system in place, nor would there be as of the turn of the twenty-first century.