Preparing for Natural Disasters in Downtown Port Townsend





After listening to all  of our guest speakers, reading a lot of books, watching movies, doing research and going on field trips, We agreed that our motto is:

We cannot prevent it (the tsunamis) but we can prepare for it.

So, we decided to focus on things we can do to prepare for natural disasters in our downtown district, in the City of Port Townsend:

We decided to focus on 6 things we can do to help the downtown district prepare:

  1. Nathaniel Ashford – learn seismology so that we can better prepare our buildings for it using nanotechnology.
  2. Ella Ashford – new methods of emergency communication of seismic events through radio and phone apps.
  3. Sophia – designing engaging ways to get people to go to high ground after an earthquake, if they are in the downtown area.
  4. Jack – innovative ways to get clean water using household items.
  5. Max – Prepare for  natural disasters with adequate food
  6. Olivia – Prepare for  natural disasters with adequate medicine.






Hello Tanda,I have a few Questions for you.

  1. Do you have a map that shows shelters in the area available to the public. If you do can the club get their hands on one.

No, we do not have a map of shelters.  We work closely with the American Red Cross on type and location of shelter(s) as the emergency need arises.  However, there are far too many variable like the type and duration of the emergency that would drive a shelter location and make mapping ineffective.  Jefferson County residences need to pay close attention to alerts and notifications as we release them to the public. 

What makes the tsunami sirens go off.

Our tsunami warning comes from the National Tsunami Warning Center in Alaska.   Our office in Port Townsend or the State Emergency Office actually pushes the button to set off the siren.

 Does the early warning messages come from NOAA in Seattle?

NOAA provides us with early warning for severe weather (not tsunami)Can you communicate by radio Admiralty Apartments?Admiralty Apartments on Taylor St. can join one of our radio groups and participate in our weekly emergency radio call-in (Wednesday mornings).  We would not provide them with radios but encourage citizens to get as active as they can with personal radios (walkie-talkie) to talk to their neighbors within Admiralty Apartments and/or join a HAM radio group and join our emergency radio call-ins.

Why does Jefferson county not have a sizemograph?

 No,  Jefferson County does not have a seismograph.  A seismograph has to be operated by an expert seismographer.  These expert reside elsewhere and provide information to more than just Jefferson County.  Below is a hyperlink to a reliable seismic information source in case you want more information:


Early Warning Systems

By Ella Ashford


I am researching about early warning system. 

In the olden days, the Hoh tribe believed that when bears howled unseasonal that meant that an earthquake was coming. Could it be that the bears where sensing the P waves? 

Now we have more accurate methods of measuring P waves.

I have found some of those methods by reading the Jefferson County EOC website (Emergency Operation Center). I looked up early warning programs that were available to the public. I found that there are warnings for text, email, radio, walki talki, ham radio, weather radio,  sirens, apps, and sometimes door to door alert (but that is very rare).

We signed up for almost all of them.  

But Jefferson County does not have a P wave sensor. All of our information comes from the National Tsunami Warning Center in Chignik Alaska 1,589 miles away! The EOC ensures us that the system will be early in the case of the Cascadia Fault, we would have about 60-90 minutes before the Tsunami hits Port Townsend. But if the Whidbey Island fault went off we would only have 3-5 minutes to get to high ground and there would be no time for the sirens to go off.


Water Still Project

Jack Gibbons

In the event of a natural disaster, clean drinking water will be in short supply.  I have been working on a way to distill water using easily-accessible items.  With it you can make potable drinking water out of fresh water or salt water.

I made the distillation machine using:

  • One cooking pot (about 2 quarts with a hole in its tight-fitting lid)
  • One 4-foot length of 1/4-inch copper tubing
  • One sheet of aluminum foil.
  • One normal bottle (to collect the water).

To assemble the water distiller, place the pot on your heat source (I used a wood stove).  Then seal one end of the copper tubing around the hole in the lid using some aluminum foil.  Bend the tube until it curves down to the bottle on the floor.  Make sure that all the tubing angles downward except for when it comes out of the pot.  Finally fill the pot with water and get it to boiling temperature and wait!

With this device I can get 8 ounces in 12 hours.


How to be Prepared with Medicine and First-aid Supplies for a Tsunami or Earthquake

By Olivia Morningstar

In a tsunami or earthquake you will need basic supplies like food, medicine and water. In an earthquake the biggest danger is things falling and crushing or injuring you. According to the Center for Disease Control, here is a list of medicines and first-aid supplies you may want to keep on hand: hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, alcohol swabs, aspirin and non-aspirin, diarrhea medicine, eye drops, bandage strips, ace bandages, gauze, Q-tips, adhesive tape roll, thermometer, splinting materials, and prescription medicines if you take them, such as inhalers for asthma. In a tsunami the biggest danger is drowning. Another danger is a lack of clean water. According to the CDC you will also need things for purifying water like waterproof matches and a cooking pot.






Inventor, Visionary Engineer and Builder

Guest Speaker – Inventor, Visionary Engineer and Builder


“When Charlie Bodony came with his remote control emergency response vehicle,

I was excited because I am interested in remote control vehicles. His model of a rescue mothership airplane that held 62 buses and could respond to any emergency around the world within 4 hours was really cool. It made me realize that anything is possible if you use your imagination. – Nathaniel


I want to be on Charlie’s team when these designs get built! – Ella Ashford

Core Sample Kai Tai Lagoon

Field Trip: Core sample from Kai Tai Lagoon


A few weeks ago, a paleoseismologist gave a talk to our 4-H group about earthquakes, faults, and tsunamis in our region.  He told us about several faults, and how they would affect us.  The Cascadia Subduction Fault is the biggest near us.  One fault just off Whidbey Island could create a tsunami that could reach Port Townsend in 3-5 minutes. Discovery Bay had evidence of several tsunamis. We wanted to know if we could find samples that matched those known events.


A few days after his talk, the seismologist took us on a core sampling expedition, at Kai Tai Lagoon, Port Townsend.  We were trying to find evidence of past tsunami wave action. We tried sampling in 5 different places, and found sand, peat and rocks.  But no evidence of tsunami because the area has been filled with sand and gravel to build a road near by.” – Jack Gibbons



“We tried to find samples at several locations with two different kinds of boring tools. But, the area had been partially filled within the last 100 years when they dug out the marina. We need to do more research as to which part of the lagoon maybe untouched by man. It was even discussed that at one time the area might have been used as a dump. The best part was working with real geologists and their tools!



It is hard to imagine that such a pretty place would have served as a dump. Now it is a protected bird sanctuary.

      o5    o6                                                  

The sample on the right is from Discovery Bay. It shows the layers of sand deposited from tsunamis.

The photo on the left shows the samples we collected at Kai Tai Lagoon.


A recap from Michael Machette

The 4-H STEM club and their mentors tried to extract a core from Kah Tai lagoon on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd.  There were about 15 individuals there, including about 8 kids, some parents, Deborah and Richard Jahnke, Gabriella Ashford (4-H PT STEM club leader), and Leslie Aickin, Paul Loubere and myself from the Jefferson Land Trust’s Geology Group.

Bitter cold and windy weather greeted the group that morning.  We got right to it at 11 am, setting out our equipment and discussing our plan, as approved by the Port Townsend City Hall (Judy Surber).  Paul and Michael attempted to auger a 1″ diameter hole in about 6 inches of water, about 5 feet into the lagoon and 100 yards south of the wooden bridge.  They encountered sand and gravel, which resisted penetration.  After several attempts in that area, we moved to under the bridge.

Debbie Jahnke had pointed out that the old berm that was placed along the current shoreline of the lagoon is composed of sand and gravel, and that this berm had been knocked down after the lagoon was backfilled in the mid 1960’s (between 12th St. and the lagoon).  Thus, coring along the southern margin of the lagoon would be impossible with a small diameter coring device.  Even worse, she mentioned that the lagoon had been used as a landfill over the early years, bringing up the possibility that a core from the deeper central part of the lagoon might encounter, say a refrigerator.  Dragons lurk there, as we like to say.

Under the bridge, we were able to avoid the sand and gravel of the old berm because we started our core below the old berm’s base.  Here we took a core about 30 inches deep, encountering mainly gray organic sand (fill from the harbor) and a 4″ thick peat deposit.  The peat is likely related to the old lagoon prior to backfilling.  However, we were unable to penetrate any deeper at this site. 

Finally, as an exercise for the students (mainly), we used a screw auger to test the lagoon-fill material.  The kids bored 5 feet deep, taking incremental samples for further study (part of the scientific methods we are encouraging them to employ).  At the -5 ft level, the base of the hole started to collapse on itself owing to saturation, so we abandoned this little experiment at that point.


In summary, our attempts to core deep enough to encounter any possible tsunami sands was thwarted by coarse materials, resistance to penetration (using our hand-powered plunge corer), and the high water table in the fill materials.  Nevertheless, the 4-H STEM club members (kids and parents) gained valuable experience by participating in this little science adventure.  We wrapped up about 2 pm, restored the disturbed ground, and policed the area for trash.

We appreciate the City’s permission to work at Kah Tai lagoon, recognizing that it is a valued and honored wetland site right here in the midst of Port Townsend.  I hope the door remains open to further studies of this type (with better coring gear), since there still may be a recoverable history of tsunami deposits that would help piece together an ancient earthquake record for the town.

And an afterword from Debbie and Rick Jahnke

Rick and I speculated that the barrier/berm emplaced in the lagoon prior to filling of the southern section with dredge spoils in 1964 was composed of sand and gravel and would be difficult to core through. We also speculated that the same barrier/berm (now the southern edge of the lagoon) had been opened where the small lagoon connects with the large lagoon when the small lagoon was dug in 1985/86 so that it might be easier to core there. We were not here for either event and so those are both speculations from photos.

The suggestion about finding refrigerators in the lagoon was Michael’s, I believe. We mentioned that back when wetlands were thought to be useless, folks certainly did come out and dump their garbage off the trestles in the middle of the area at that time. There is a good history of all that written by Kevin Burke in 1984, when he was City park manager.

And while the park is ‘valued and honored’, more importantly it is also protected as wildlife habitat. That protection arises from the language of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant that created the park in 1981. Hence, my alarmist alert to the kids when they were distracted from coring and wanted to wade out to the island in the small lagoon.

If anyone needs any addiitional background information about Kah Tai, there’s plenty of it to share.

Sol Duc Hot Springs

Field Trip to Sol Duc Hot Springs



 We visited Sol Duc Hot Springs during the off season. We went on Thanksgiving Day. The resort was closed. But we had guessed that the “dragons tears” might be more than one source and we were right!  There were lots of places it oozed out of the earth.




Digging out a new hot pool to play in next to a river is soooo much fun!



“The  best part of the field trip up to the “dragon’s tears” hot springs was sitting in that hot water. It was right on the edge of the river. There were lots of places it oozed out of the earth. We started to dig one out. We even drank some from a  special “source” pipe. The part that surprised me was that the water not just smelled but tasted like sulpher. Sulpher is a key chemical of the inside of the earth. Knowing seismology, I realized that I was tasting molecules from the center of the earth!” – Nathaniel

Ham Radio Operator

Guest Speaker: Ham Radio Operator



” Radio amateur Jerry Fry visited our 4-H lab to talk to us about Ham (Amateur) Radio, and walky-talkies.  He explained what were the best places to transmit (if possible not through metal, but on high, open areas).  After his talk, we tested the range of walky-talkies, and used his tips to transmit.” – Jack Gibbons


“For me the radio exercise was fun, because I have never used a radio before. I had fun talking to everyone and walking though the forest with Ella, Sophia, and my Dad. I thought it was a pretty good way of communicating. When we were walking through the forest the signal got a little scratchy. I think that was because of all the trees blocking the signal.” – Olivia Morningstar




“We organized ourselves in groups of two or three. We then assigned ourselves numbers. We went outdoors at night with radio’s and flashlights. We assigned the house radio as home base. Then we went to 4 predetermined locations and radioed in to home base.

Ella #10 – Forest and Swing

Nathaniel #13 – bottom of gulley

Everest #1 – bottom of gulley

Timber #3 – turn of road

Max #7 -top of gulley

Jack #9 – top of gulley

Olivia #5 – forest and swing

Sophia#2 – forest and swing

Donna #8 – top of gulley

Home Base – robotics lab


The biggest problem was teaching the younger kids how to use the radio responsibly and take turns listening and talking. Everyone wanted to talk at the same time. The younger kids also had problems pushing the buttons.

Paleoseismology at Maritime Center

Paleoseismology Event at Maritime Center

A FIRST JrFLL, FLL and FRC robotics demonstration and Seismology Event



The Paleo-seismologist was one of the most interesting speakers we had talk to us this season. He told us about P and S waves, which are waves produced by earthquakes. He also talked about the location of the faults near or community. Did you know that in Port Townsend, Washington, a tsunami could strike just 3 minutes if a nearby fault creates an earthquake? That’s less time than it takes to boil a cup of water! It was great that the meeting was located at the local maritime center, because we got to see the high school robotics club use their robot. I hope that someday I can join the high school team too. – Max  Morningstar



The first day I learned about Robotics was when I went to a speech that a paleo-seismologist was giving the FLL Team about earthquakes and tsunamis in our community. I learned that most of downtown Port Townsend was built on artificial fill. After the speech I got to see Ella’s robot do a task. I also got to see the high student’s robot, which was a long way off from accomplishing the high school level task of shooting Frisbees into slots. Now that I have joined the team, I am working on Ella’s robot with Jack, Max and Ella. – Olivia

Downtown Interviews

Downtown Interviews



” Our team went downtown Port Townsend to interview  merchants located in the tsunami flood zone about disaster preparedness.

  Most shops/businesses had first aid kits and fire extinguishers, but did not know what to do in case of disaster.”                          – Jack Gibbons



Downtown Port Townsend has hundred year old brick buildings. We found that only three of them are seismically reinforced; some on the inside, some on the outside. But most of them are very vulnerable to both earthquakes and tsunamis.

Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Coordinator

Guest Speaker: Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Coordinator



We learned from our neighborhood emergency coordinator that the Downtown District of Port Townsend had no organization in the event of a natural disaster. We even had one in our own neighborhood and we aren’t even in a known tsunami zone! Something has to be done!


Our map looks like a dragon! The head of the dragon is the city of Port Townsend. This is the town that we picked to help. We decided to focus on the downtown because it is vulnerable to both earthquakes and tsunamis. We decided that education and technology before an earthquake is our focus!

Trick or Treat Education

Downtown Trick or Treat Parade – Emergency Preparedness Education


At the Downtown Children’s Trick or Treat Parade, we went all out! We designed a bookmarker to give out to kids. On it, we stapled a life saver candy. We showed off our Kinetic Sculpture, told people about FLL Robotics and handed out a bookmarker showcasing the new 4-H Whidbey Island Emergency Preparedness DVD that our neighboring 4-H Club had given us. We donated it to our local library!  We sponsored this event because it was our chance to reach families and let them know that this new kid friendly resource was now available at the library! We gave out 250 bookmarks! That’s Tanda helping us. She is the new EOC coordinator in the community – giving us a hand! Welcome Tanda!


Both the FLL and JrFLL Robotics kids shared their designs. Lots of kids loved looking at the robots  and LEGO fire trucks, while the parents got to look at our awesome kinetic sculpture and the informative bookmarker!

Drone Technology

Drone Technology



We experimented with Drone technology after the Fire Departments visit. We all agreed that “flight” might be the best way for the fire truck to get their “gear” to places the truck could not drive.  However, we found out that:

  1. Drones cannot carry a lot of weight (we used Lego’s)
  2. Drones are hard to control
  3. Drones are limited on their energy capacity
  4. Drones are expensive, especially if you crash a lot! (We crashed ours a lot!)


     h2                           h3


We spent a lot of time and energy devising ways to get our lego supplies across our lego towns . We think that in the future drones will do the Assessment Loops instead of the fire trucks. It will save time and money and lives.

Previous Older Entries