As an Washington State Emergency Operations Officer, working in the Alert & Warning Center (A&WC), sometimes all it takes is one phone call to turn a slow, boring shift into a flurry of frantic activity.
Last night turned out to be a case of that "one phone call." Shortly after 1900 hours (7 PM), I stepped out for a bathroom break. When I sauntered back into the A&WC, I asked my partner, Bruce, "all quiet?"
He responded, "actually--no."
While I was out, he took a call from a Skagit County dispatcher, who merely said, "the I-5 Bridge collapsed and we're deploying our dive team, because there's vehicles in the water."
For two hours Bruce and I were deluged with phone calls. But within the first hour, our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activated to "Phase-II" (partial activation) and several folks came in to help take this incident off our hands.
Fortunately no one was hurt, or killed, while officials from the surrounding counties called to say they had assets available to assist. By mid-evening, the only thing Skagit County wanted was someone from the WA State Emergency Management to be dispatched to their EOC and act as a state liaison.
Then things quieted down--a little. Shortly before 2300 hours (11 PM) the West Coast-Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WCATWC) reported an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in the Sea of Okhotsk
--and that they would be trying to determine if there was any tsunami danger. In less than an hour, we all breathed a sigh of relief, when the WCATWC reported there was no tsunami danger.
The local news agencies covered this story on-scene for a few hours. By the wee hours of the morning, the national networks began reporting this incident.
Despite this story making national notoriety, here's Seattle Times headline