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Forecasters Will Test Tsunami Warning System

- Courtesy of KTOO and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Sunday marked the anniversary of the Great Alaska Earthquake, the most powerful earthquake in U.S. History, which led to the second largest tsunami ever recorded. In hopes of mitigating damage from future disasters the state has named this week Tsunami Preparedness Week and Wednesday morning the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer will test its tsunami warning system at 10:15. 

Some communities like Homer, Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek will hear tsunami warning sirens. 

Paul Whitmore, director of the warning center, says the tsunami warning system is tested once every year near the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed 131 people.

“We started doing these about 10 years ago and we’ve found a lot of bugs in the system. It’s helped us make this whole system work a little better,” said Whitmore.

Whitmore says the test will target Southern and Southeast Coastal Alaska as well as the Aleutian Islands.

He says those communities face the most tsunami danger.

“If they’re watching TV or radio they should hear the emergency alert system trigger and there’ll be a voice-over that states this is a test of the tsunami warning system with some other verbiage,” said Whitmore. 

Whitmore stresses that Wednesday’s alert will be a test but residents should remember that if another powerful earthquake strikes they shouldn’t rely only on the tsunami warning system to make their decisions.

“It’s important for people in Alaska to know that if they feel a strong earthquake and are near the coast and the quake shakes for 20 seconds or more… that’s nature’s warning. There’s no need to wait for an emergency announcement. Just get yourself to higher ground and then find out what’s going on,” said Whitmore. 

Whitmore says sometimes people misinterpret the Tsunami Warning Center’s tests and believe there could be an actual tsunami on the way. He says anyone concerned about the chances of a tsunami can check the center’s website at

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