No news, good news?

Thank you all for the prayers and well wishes for my family. Phone, power and Internet are down all throughout Japan and especially in the hard hit region of northeastern Japan where my parents and my mother’s family live.

Geography Lesson

The 8.9 quake that struck Japan on Friday afternoon their time was off of the coast of Sendai. It’s the capital of Miyagi Prefecture with a population of one million. On the news, you may have seen video of a tsunami inundated airport. That’s Sendai. (A “prefecture” is something like a province; we use the word I guess because it sounds oriental. The Japanese call them todōfuken. Each prefecture has an elected governor and legislative assembly.)

The dramatic video of monstrous mud flows with burning heaps moving miles inland are from coastal areas near Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. If wonder how houses floating on water can burn so well, understand that most homes in northern Japan are heated with kerosene heaters, and most households keep one or two five gallon containers of kerosene inside the dwelling. Cooking and water heaters are often powered with liquid propane stored in tanks at the house. Those tanks are outside, but they’re chained to the house to prevent damage during a quake.

180 miles up the coast from Sendai is Hachinohe. A lot of video showing large ships swept over seawalls into bridges, buildings and cars by 13 foot surges comes from this city, and the tsunami pushed several miles inland at that city. Hachinohe is in Aomori Prefecture, which is the northernmost prefecture in Japan. It’s winter and snow is forecast for today there. Freezing temperatures only compounds the difficulty of rescue operations and flooding.

Just a couple of miles up the coast from Hachinoe is the Oirase River. My parents live about three miles inland from the Pacific Coast, but this Oirase River flows near their home in a very flat plain. Rivers — especially wide, flat rivers like the Oirase — are superhighways for tsunamis. River channels concentrate a tsunami’s power upstream for miles. Rokunohe is a tiny village of about 1,000 people and the Japanese news media haven’t reported anything from there yet beyond information about evacuations orders.

The joint US-Japan Misawa military base is only two miles from the coast a couple of miles north of the Oirase. Misawa is my old childhood stomping grounds. People at Misawa were concerned about a tsunami swamping the base and city, but all they have contend with is shivering in the cold as they work to restore power and heat.



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For instances like this, the best way to contact U.S. citizens abroad is through the State Department. My dad address is registered with the U.S. Embassy in Japan, and they have the local resources to make contact.

I still have other friends and family in Japan, and I can contact them in a roundabout way through the military if necessary.

The other big resource is the American Red Cross Safe and Well website. There are other resources as well through Google, Facebook and what not.

Tokyo Travel

After Narita Airport closed due to the earthquake, several commercial flights diverted to Yokota Air Base, which is where I spent my teen years.

13 Comments

  • Anonymous
    March 11, 2011 - 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I’d imagine they’re very busy at present. It may not help yet, but I was on a business trip to Los Angeles when the Northridge Quake hit. All my daughter’s friends wanted to know if I’d been killed. Since the plant closed to recheck the tooling alignment and I was at a hotel I had no ownership interest in, I got sunburned from too much lounging at the pool. I’m sure it’ll come out well and I hope you’ll share a good story or two with us.

  • jordy
    March 11, 2011 - 11:12 pm | Permalink

    my thoughts are with you, I have family in Rokunohe too. No news as yet but I ascribe that to power and communications outages. Hopefully Rokunohe is far enough away from the coast to escape anything more than debris and rubbish floating down the river…

  • March 11, 2011 - 11:20 pm | Permalink

    My mom is a nurse at Misawa AFB. We are lucky- she has no power or internet at home but has been sending us dispatches on conditions via facebook, twitter, and gmail throughout the day from the base hospital, which is operating on generator power. She said that the high schools were giving out rations and letting people take showers. Situation was not helped by the fact that it started snowing. She was, at the very least, able to drive the two miles from her house to the base. Hope you get in touch with your family soon- it is hard to be so far apart during times like these.

  • jordy
    March 11, 2011 - 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Just wanted to pop back and update on rokunohe – i’ve heard from my family there via a third party that they are ok, just without power and not sure when they will be able to get in touch directly. Hopefully your family are simply in a similar situation.

  • Anonymous
    March 12, 2011 - 12:24 am | Permalink

    My prayers are with you and all of those who have friends and family in Japan.

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  • Becky
    March 12, 2011 - 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Jordy…thank you for the update. I was born at Misawa AFB, and all my mother’s family is in Rokunohe. Please let me know if you hear anything else. My mother is the only family member in the US and as you can imagine, is absolutely beside herself with worry. Any update you can provide will be much appreciated.

  • Becky
    March 12, 2011 - 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Jordy…thank you for the update. I was born at Misawa AFB, and all my mother’s family is in Rokunohe. Please let me know if you hear anything else. My mother is the only family member in the US and as you can imagine, is absolutely beside herself with worry. Any update you can provide will be much appreciated.

  • Nhl2005puck
    March 12, 2011 - 3:43 pm | Permalink
  • Nhl2005puck
    March 12, 2011 - 3:43 pm | Permalink
  • March 12, 2011 - 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Hi- there are lots of sites springing up on facebook- this one has had lots of good information: https://www.facebook.com/MisawaEmergencyManagement also
    https://www.facebook.com/AFNMisawa
    looks like off-base power is coming back on. my mom reports lots of aftershocks

  • March 12, 2011 - 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Hi all, power and Internet were restored at my parents’ home in Rokunohe Saturday night (Japan time) and my dad emailed to say all is well. Apparently, damage throughout Aomori-ken was very light outside of the immediate coast at Hachinohe, with few casualties.

  • winstonchloe
    March 14, 2011 - 2:24 pm | Permalink

    That’s great news, Richard! Sending good thoughts their way…

    Alan

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