Simulated evacuation in the Island of Anguilla (Photo: Anguilla Dir. of Disaster Management, Elizabeth Klute)
(March 29, 2011) - A total of 34 Caribbean nations participated in last week's CARIBE WAVE 2011 Caribbean-wide tsunami alert exercise. The first-of-its-kind exercise was organized to improve tsunami warning system effectiveness along the Caribbean coasts. It also served as a key activity to help promote National Tsunami Awareness Week (March 20-26) for the United States.
Conducted under the framework of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG CARIBE EWS), NOAA's Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program and the National Weather Service Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program (CTWP); CARIBE WAVE 2011 involved more than 15,000 people who participated in communication tests, seminars, drills, table top and full-scale exercises.
The simulation featured a 7.6 magnitude earthquake off the coast of the U.S. Virgin Islands. CTWP Director and CARIBE WAVE 2011 Task Team Leader Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade noted the exercise was modeled on an actual event that occurred more than 140 years ago.
"The scenario was based roughly on the November 18, 1867 Virgin Islands earthquake and tsunami with impacts focused on the Eastern Caribbean," she said. "Located between St. Croix and St. Thomas, there were actually two earthquakes which generated tsunami waves, with run-ups up to 10 meters, and strong currents lasting five hours."
For the purposes of the test, the CTWP and the West Coast/Alaska and Pacific Tsunami Warning Centers prepared a manual which was translated into Spanish and French. Maps and tables with tsunami travel times to several hundred sites in the Caribbean were also generated.
During the simulation, the two U.S. Warning Centers sent a dummy message to kick-off the exercise and followed up with e-mails containing corresponding tsunami bulletins to nearly 300 participants throughout the region.
Responses and results from the various participating countries will be analyzed by the Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program, at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez; and a formal report will be prepared for the next session of the ICG CARIBE EWS in April.
Until then, von Hillebrandt-Andrade says, "Thanks to the CARIBE WAVE exercise, there is no doubt the Caribbean is better prepared for when the next tsunami strikes the region."
CTWP Director Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade (Right) discusses exercise manual with Gloria Ceballos, director, National Meteorological Office, Dominican Republic (Photo: CTWP)
Simulated tsunami travel time map created by CTWP and U.S. Tsunami Warning Centers.