Residents seek shelter from possible tsunami

Jan 23, 2018

Judy Eastwood and her sister Donna Watts take shelter at the South Peninsula Hospital.
Credit Renee Gross, KBBI News

The tsunami warning on Tuesday sent people along the Gulf of Alaska scrambling to find higher ground. In Homer, residents evacuated to the north side of Pioneer and over 60 people waited out the warning in the South Peninsula Hospital and Homer High School.

Chuck Hagen was asleep at his home on Bay Avenue when he realized something was wrong.

“I heard the sirens going and I turned the radio on and it said a tsunami was coming this way,” he said.

Hagen doesn’t have family here so he drove himself to Homer High School, which was a designated shelter. The stress and the walk from the parking lot tired him out.

“I can't get around very good,” he said.  “I’m ok, I’m just out of wind. This is no place for a 90-year-old man to be.”

The potential tsunami freaked out many Homer residents but for those already in a vulnerable position, the warning brought about special concerns. Judy Eastwood drove from Haven House, a shelter for domestic abuse victims, to the South Peninsula Hospital and was still in her pajamas.

“I'm still very sick,” she said. “I didn't get my meds, nothing, not even a coat.

She was worried about only having three hours to go before needing her medicine. She was also concerned about others who had stayed behind at Haven House.

“Another girl there who is in almost  the same shape as me, I couldn't get her to get up and get out of bed,"she said. "Finally, she heard it and woke up." 

But it wasn’t just leaving others behind that worried people. Aubree Stedman lives on the base on the spit.

“Initially, I had planned to get all of my animals, I have more of them,” she said. “Then my instinct was to get my kids and dogs in the car and run away. I was trying to stay calm for my kids but my chest felt like it was exploding. So I left behind several pets that we couldn’t get to bring with us. So I’m having a nervous breakdown a little bit.”

Along with nerves, there was also great deal of confusion. Homer Police Sargent Larry Baxter came up to the school to address rumors and concerns.

"People at the emergency operations centers have been hearing stories that Kodiak and Seward have been devastated and wiped out," he said. "That's not true.”

Still there were many people who were calm from the beginning. Bob Heilig lives near Ulmers.

"I figure there's the tinest little chance  that something will actually happen, that this area will actually be hit," he said. 

Small waves under a foot were detected in Kodiak and other Gulf communities, but no major threat was posed by the quake. Around 3:30 a.m. the tsunami the warning was changed to an advisory and residents were told to return to their homes.