NOAA’s National Weather Service: Responding to the March 2011 Pacific Tsunami


March 11, 2011: A massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake—one
of the most powerful in recorded history—strikes northeast Japan, triggering a deadly tsunami
that claims thousands of lives. NOAA’­s National Weather Service was ready.
Within minutes of the earthquake, the NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued Tsunami
Watches and Warnings for locations throughout the Pacific, including Japan and Hawaii. While it would take hours for the tsunami
waves to reach the U.S., the NWS West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center began issuing statements
just minutes later, which were soon followed by advisories, watches and warnings for the
U.S. mainland that would ultimately stretch from the Mexican border to the Aleutian Islands. [EAS Siren] “An earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9
has been detected approximately 38 miles northeast of Honshu, Japan. The Humboldt
County director of emergency services has declared a local emergency and has asked that
people stay off the beaches, not travel by watercraft, and evacuate low-lying coastal
areas immediately, until advised that it is safe to return.” NWS Weather Forecast Offices called in extra
staffing and issued local tsunami statements that were focused on local customer impacts.
Many offices also used weather story graphics to convey the threat. NWS staff fielded a large number of media
interviews, including live interviews at all West Coast Weather Forecast Offices. There
was also heavy use of NWSchat instant messaging with media and emergency management. The NWS Office of Communications also kept
the public informed though regular headline postings on weather.gov and the NWS national
Facebook page, which saw its largest ever one-day increase in number of fans. NWS is closely monitoring the aftershocks
from this event for the potential of new tsunamis. Working 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week,
NOAAĂ­s National Weather Service is building a Weather-Ready Nation in which society is
prepared for and responds to weather-dependent events. Learn more at www.weather.gov.

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