It’s been more than four months since the last confirmed piece of Japanese tsunami debris washed ashore on the Pacific Northwest coast. Even sightings of suspected disaster debris have tapered way off in recent months. Does that mean we’re just in a lull or past the worst of it? Correspondent Tom Banse reports from the coast.
Tom Banse: “I’m taking advantage of a break in the weather to do a little bit of beachcombing. I’ve come to Long Beach in southwest Washington. I’m keeping my eyes peeled as I walk the high tide line here for trash, especially anything that might be related to last year’s terrible Japanese tsunami. To my surprise, I’m not seeing much flotsam of any kind. Joining me is Chuck Matthews of Washington’s Department of Ecology. He’s also been out here looking for the same things."
Matthews: “Rangers that we speak with – folks that are out here every day – have been commenting to me for a couple of months that the beaches are looking really clean. It’s a good development.”
Banse: "I would have thought with all these storms that we’ve had in the last few weeks - just one after another, with high winds too - if there was debris out to sea, it would wash ashore around now, wouldn’t you think?"
Matthews: “We are not getting reports of sightings, either aerial or at-sea reports, of any sort of large flotilla of debris that is heading this way. We don’t have a reason to kind of gear up for that at this moment. But we’re also prepared should we see something occur."
Banse: "Should I assume this is a lull or maybe are we out of the woods?"
Matthews: “I’m not assuming anything. We’re at the early part of the storm season. Unfortunately, nobody has a crystal ball that can tell us what’s in the future.”
Banse: “We’re hearing the same thing from the Oregon State Parks Department, that is, few if any detections of likely tsunami debris. But volunteer groups, which are really carrying the load of keeping the beaches clean, they’re not letting down their guard and have scheduled beach cleanup days for next year."
Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio Web extras: Photo for web posting (120512TB_Debris.jpg) By Tom Banse Caption: Chuck Matthews (left) and Curt Hart of WA Dept. of Ecology consult about flotsam that -- like most found on Long Beach – is impossible to trace to a specific origin. NOAA computer model of tsunami debris distribution: http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris/debris_model.html Washington State Marine Debris Task Force website: http://marinedebris.wa.gov/ Report unusual or potentially hazardous marine debris to these hotlines: Washington State: 1-855-WACOAST Oregon: 2-1-1