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Tsunami Prompts Vancouver Island Evacuations, Wonky Tides

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Published on Mar 11, 2011

PORT RENFREW - Impressive waves crash along the Port Renfrew shoreline Friday morning. A few hours earlier, people living in the area were woken up by the sound of a siren most of them had never heard before. People living along the tide line were evacuated to the school and rec centre.

Even the Fire Chief was caught off guard. Chelsea Kuzman had tested the warning system in the past, but it was no drill when Langford dispatch called at midnight with news of a tsunami advisory.

People spending the night in elementary school hallways were also caught off-guard, some fleeing their homes without even their shoes.

The tsunami waves were expected to arrive about 5:30am, but water levels never rose more than about a metre.

In Victoria's comparatively protected Inner Harbour, the tsunami's presence registered with only a ripple at about 7:30 Friday morning, but nearby there was a more visual reminder of the disaster unfolding almost 7000 kilometres away - a very unusual sight in Esquimalt Harbour. A bay in the harbour was draining and re-filling all morning over and over again, about every 12 or 13 minutes.

Nearby construction workers spotted the phenomenon, and couldn't figure it out. "It looked like someone had pulled the drain in the ocean. Pulled the plug in the ocean and drained it" says Mike Keown.

Ocean Sciences expert Chris Barnes thinks he can explain the wonky tides, saying water was being pushed into the south island's complicated geometry of bays and inlets, then oscillating back and forth.

And he points out the tsunami feared to have been heading our way after the disaster in Japan is actually a series of waves. Fortunately, the massive tsunami triggered Thursday night in Japan ran out of steam long before it reached Vancouver Island.

Follow Andrew Johnson on Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/ANewsAndrew

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