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WATCH: Remembering the 1964 Port Alberni tsunami

ABOVE: From the Global BC archives – footage from the 1964 Port Alberni Tsunami.

On March 28 it will have been 50 years since a tsunami hit the Port Alberni area of Vancouver Island.

The waves were triggered by a 9.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Alaska.

Some residents of Port Alberni will still remember the day the tsunami hit. It caused major damage to the community, but luckily everyone survived.

The first wave hit the community just after midnight, when most people were asleep. According to the Port Alberni museum, it was the quick thinking of many of the city’s citizens who alerted and evacuated most of the residents before the much larger second wave.

The second wave carried off homes, cars and knocked out power to the community. It was not until the waters finally receded days later that the residents could understand the full extent of the damage.

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More than 50 homes and properties were completely destroyed.

Emergency Management B.C. has spent the last few weeks touring Vancouver Island to hold talks and information sessions on disaster preparation. They will be holding an information session on Thursday in Port Alberni.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said unlike 50 years ago, the province now has much more robust communications abilities to help notify their emergency response partners, including the Provincial Emergency Notification System and social media to help spread messages.

As a result of the 1964 Alaska earthquake and tsunami, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA), developed the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre, now known as the National Tsunami Warning Centre. This delivers real-time tsunami notifications to areas of potential impact and B.C. is linked into this system.

B.C. also has the Tsunami Notification Process Plan.

Local authorities are the legislated lead in planning and responding to emergencies, including localized risk of earthquake and tsunamis. Emergency Management B.C. provides the local authorities with training and support to help inform their plans. They have also helped developed the Community Emergency Plan Review Tool Kit.

– Sources: The Port Alberni Museum and B.C’s Provincial Emergency Program.

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