On March 11 2:46 PM local Japan time, the tragic and devastating earthquake hit Japan followed by the even more damaging tsunami about an hour later. Eight hours later, the fast moving tsunami (Tsunamis travel about 500 miles per hour under water) led to warnings up and down the Northern California coast, including the Bay Area where I live.
In San Francisco, the Japan earthquake hit at 10:46 PM local time on March 10 (sixteen hour time zone difference). That night, I read about it online via my Twitter feed and also watched some coverage on CNN. I soon went to sleep as usual with the next morning being a typical work day. At around 5:45 AM the following morning, I first heard my cell phone ring followed by our home phone. I missed the calls, but immediately listened to the voice mail left by my father calling from Ohio. Being in the eastern time zone three hours ahead of me, he had already heard the warnings about the tsunamis and wanted to make sure I was fully aware. After I heard the voice mail, my first inclination was to check my Twitter feed for appropriate messages and chatter about the Tsunami. I found this tweet, retweeted by someone I followed from a local news station, that gave me a good sense about the timing of the tsunami.
But I wanted and needed to know more. How high would the waves be? Would it be safe to go to work or should I work from home? Would there be crazy traffic jams?
The only way to really answer those questions was to watch the local television news. They had reporters stationed at the various beaches and harbors expecting tsunami conditions. They had commentary on how high waves would be at each location—with the expected swells being only 1 to 2 feet high, it would certainly be safe enough to go to work. However, I discovered that parts of near by Half Moon Bay were being evacuated for precautionary reasons and others on their own were moving to higher ground, creating immense traffic conditions on Highway 92 spilling onto adjoining Highway 280. I now knew to avoid those freeways. The local news provided all of the follow on answers I needed to know.
I’ve been one of the biggest proponents of Twitter as a news source and a frequent critic of the local news. However, in the case of a nearby disruption (such as a natural disaster like the tsunami or unintended disaster like the San Bruno gas line explosion), the local news on television is undoubtedly the best way to be informed. Now, if I wanted to know about what was happening in Japan, certainly the news curation I can find on Twitter was a much better source, but for knowing what to do here in the Bay Area, the local news was where it was at.