Tsunami Warning System

Last night, my Tsunami Warning System consisted of one piece of technology: ForecastFox, a Firefox extension that puts a few little live icons showing current weather conditions on my bookmarks toolbar, right there in the browser where I can see it.

It updates periodically, and a little rectangular pop-up fades in and out unobtrusively (unless I’m on screen about to do a presentation) every half-hour or so, usually showing me a little picture of a happy sun and the text “Santa Cruz, CA 75° Sunny”…

…except that last night a little red box with a big white exclamation point says “SEVERE WEATHER ALERT” and links to the NOAA Tsunami Warning which was coming across the wires at that moment.

We turned on the TV and radio… nothing… checked cnn.com… nothing… checked local newspaper/tv sites for here and in Eureka… nothing…

Minutes went by while we wondered when the sirens would start blaring. Should we start calling our friends who live near the beach? Should we start knocking on doors?

FINALLY the local NBC affiliate scrolled something across the top of whatever horrible horrible show they had on (Please tell me that was really Vanilla Ice and not someone imitating him – although I don’t know which disturbs me more), and the local NPR station cuts into the classical music to mention that there is a Tsunami warning in effect for the entire west coast.

Eventually every news organization online started picking up the AP story as it came off the wire – but MAN that was a long 45 minutes or so of trying to figure out what was going on and whether it was time to panic.

Yes, we live in a low-lying coastal area in Northern California. Yes, we were scared.

Heh, the Santa Cruz County Office of Emergency Services Tsunami page contains, among others, the following warning (in large red letters):

Tsunamis are not surfable! They are not V-shaped or curling waves. Large tsunamis most frequently come onshore as a rapidly rising turbulent surge of water choked with debris.

Remember that one, kids: Tsunamis are not surfable.

So thank you ForecastFox guys. If I hadn’t had that installed, I probably would not have heard anything about any danger until this morning when I woke up and heard it on NPR, or until I heard the sirens, if they had come.

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