Community Commentary: Tsunami awareness needed in Orange County

As the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear tragedy in Japan continues to unfold, some Orange County residents wonder what it might be like if anything like it happened here.

Such a nightmare for folks along the Orange Coast would impact us all. A tidal wave of surge refugees would sweep inland.

All reasonable preparatory steps should be taken. That's easy to say but daunting even to think about.

We shrink from the implications of breached nuclear generation stations. Minute radioactive sparklers are now making their way into Japanese flesh, blood and bone.

About SONGS (San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station) fronting the Pacific just south of the Orange County line, we wonder whether a tsunami and/or earthquake might unleash its sparklers.

Official reassurances this could not happen include referral to a "30-foot-high" barrier wall across its shore side.

But height and sturdiness may not be all that is called for. Where barriers are sited as well as how they are designed to handle an incoming surge may turn out to be life-and-death important.

All of us want to believe nothing like this could ever happen here.

Millions, whether they know it or not, are betting their lives and the lives of their families, friends and neighbors on that belief. But whose responsibility is emergency response? If you don't know, maybe you should find out. Don't ignore the question. Don't just point every which way but home.

How come the cities of Dana Point, Newport Beach and San Clemente are the only ones on the Orange Coast with an official Tsunami Ready Community logo on their websites?

Why does the city of Huntington Beach test sirens monthly and post online its Tsunami Evacuation Map?

Why is even the word "tsunami" nearly missing from the Seal Beach city website? Such a sea surge there would abruptly created a human tossed salad.

A Newport Beach inundation map posted on the Web suggests an incoming tsunami might run its upper bay inland like a UC Irvine freshman late for class.

Where on the Web or any place else does the city of Laguna Beach make public that its downtown area — already forewarned by surge nudges — could be gigantically wet-mopped by a tsunami?

Most of the city of San Clemente runs inland from seaside bluffs, but where it doesn't, you may see at least some tsunami hazard signage. Warnings appear on roads entering either end of its coastal park area.

There is even one in Capistrano Beach inland on Doheny Park Road, just before it reaches Costco.

Some city of San Clemente tsunami hazard signage shows up on the shore side of the coastal railroad track crossings favored by beachgoers.

It's better than the absence of any at SONGS.

A few years ago, the tsunami bell tolled in the Indian Ocean. A few months ago, it tolled in the western Pacific, a clang that smashed ashore on Hawaii's Big Island Kona Coast and devastated California's Santa Cruz boat harbor while pounding our Humboldt shoreline.

Where will it toll next?

GALAL KERNAHAN is a Laguna Woods resident.

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