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National Weather Service declares Rota storm, tsunami ready

(NOAA) — Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service have recognized Rota in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as the fourth western North Pacific location to become StormReady and TsunamiReady.  

Rota joins Guam, Saipan, Tinian and 1,414 other StormReady communities in 50 states and 61 other TsunamiReady communities in ten states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the CNMI.

“On behalf of the Rota Mayor’s Office and our partners in the emergency management and response community, we are proud to receive this StormReady and TsunamiReady recognition,” said Mayor Joseph S. Inos.   “It validates the value we place on education and preparedness, and our commitment to public safety.  It further illustrates our experience in dealing with disasters, particularly typhoons.”  

 “The island of Rota has worked hard to earn the StormReady and TsunamiReady titles, making it the fourth location in the western North Pacific to do so,” said Jeff LaDouce, director of the National Weather Service Pacific Region.  

“The island should take great pride in providing its residents and visitors with the added protection that the StormReady and TsunamiReady programs afford.  Through the TsunamiReady program, Rota will be highly prepared to protect the lives of its residents and visitors during rare but potentially deadly tsunami events.”

Island officials were presented with a recognition letter and special StormReady and TsunamiReady signs at the Rota Resort and Country Club.  The recognition must be renewed every three years.  

To be recognized as StormReady and TsunamiReady, a community must:

• Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center;

• Create a system that monitors local weather and ocean conditions;

• Develop multiple ways to receive tsunami and severe weather warnings, and alert the public in a timely manner;

• Develop a formal hazard plan and conduct emergency exercises; and

• Promote public readiness through community education.

Rota’s history of typhoons and earthquakes and its geographical isolation have inspired the CNMI government agencies to do everything possible to prepare for disasters and protect Rota residents and visitors.  

The residents and the CNMI and Rota governments have an impressive track record.  

In only the last 12 years, Rota has experienced a considerable number of very strong typhoons — Keith, Paka, Chata’an, Pongsona, and Chaba.  

These produced high winds and storm surge causing millions of dollars of damage, but fortunately did not result in any deaths.  

The Mariana islands also have a history of tsunamis.  

Three have caused damage at more than one location — in 1849, 1892, and in 1993 — with one death occurring on Guam during the 1849 event.  

 Of particular concern are the underwater volcanoes to the northwest and the Marianas Trench to the east, one of the world’s deepest trenches with a history of strong seismic events.  

A small section of the Trench near Rota has a shallow subduction plate, the type that can produce earthquakes that trigger tsunamis.  

The epicenter of magnitude 8.1 earthquake that occurred on August 8, 1993 was not far from Rota.

“While no community can be totally typhoon proof, the StormReady program helps provide Rota with opportunities to minimize the threat to life and property,” said Genevieve Cruz Miller, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service Forecast Office on Guam.

 “I am personally very proud of Rota, since I have very close ties to the island.  My father, Jack, is from here. It is noteworthy that Rota has the only widespread siren warning system in the Marianas.  It is also noteworthy that the Island has some of the narrowest reefs and one of the highest storm surge vulnerabilities in Micronesia.  East Harbor had a 23-foot storm surge during Typhoon Pongsona.”

Joining the Rota residents at the ceremony were National Weather Service representatives from the Weather Forecast Office on Guam, CNMI Emergency Management Office representatives from Saipan, and the National StormReady and TsunamiReady program manager from Silver Spring, Maryland, Chris Maier.