Our island is divided into zones and each zone has it’s own evacuation location. Most are multiple story buildings with packs of supplies for just such an occasion. Lucky for us, our safety zone requires us to go just up the stairs from our apartment to the second floor. A large siren that marks certain points of each day would sound if a tsunami was, in fact, going to come upon Kwajalein.
Over the course of the next couple of hours, we heard multiple unofficial reports from our fellow island newbies about the danger level of living on this small island. Some of it was new, but much of it we’d heard before. Natural disasters are quite rare in the Marshall Island for a number of reasons. First, we are not especially close to any earthquake zones. This makes any tsunamis travel a great distance to impact us. More important than this distance though, is the under water geographic make up of our area. One person described our location like the top of a needle in the middle of the Pacific. While probably a bit of a stretch, the reality is that we do not have the gradually ascending ocean floor of most coasts which make tsunamis so dangerous. This reality played out again on Tuesday.
At 4:15, our final presenter walked in to give his presentation. It was the weatherman, also the person responsible for tracking tsunamis. He let us know that the wave that was going to hit us in 5 minutes was now only about an inch high and that the sirens would not be sounding. The last natural disaster to strike Kwajalein was a typhoon many decades ago. This too was very rare, though, as we inhabit the region where typhoons begin rather than finish (much like the west coast of Africa is where hurricanes begin as tropical waves).
While obviously glad for the false alarm, we are thankful for the scare that insured that we seriously consider the action steps required should a natural disaster head our way. Thank you for the notes that many of you sent over the last few days with your concern and prayers. We are greatly blessed by you all.