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7.7 Magnitude Earthquake and Tsunami

Published 29th January 2020, 2:36pm

EARTHQUAKE COMMUNICATIONS TIMELINE

At 2:10 pm on January 28, 2020 an earthquake was strongly felt across all three Cayman Islands.

At 2:17 pm a computer generated preliminary notification was received from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), the official source for tsunami information for the Caribbean reporting that a 7.3 M earthquake event had occurred and that hazardous tsunami waves were possible for the Cayman Islands.

At 2:19 pm (two minutes after the official PTWC notification) Hazard Management Cayman Islands interrupted all radio stations alerting the public that a 7.3 M earthquake had occurred and that hazardous tsunami waves for possible for the Cayman Islands. Actions such as moving away from the coastline and low lying areas where included and advice to upper floors of strong reinforced concrete structures (if heading to higher ground was not an option).

Between 2:20 to 2:23 pm, (three to five minutes after the first PTWC notification) notifications about the event, the possibility of a tsunami were posted on Hazard Management Cayman Islands website, Facebook and Twitter Pages.

At 2:25 HMCI used the National Emergency Notification to interrupt all radio stations again, alerting the public that an earthquake occurred, the potential for a tsunami.

At 2:26 the 2nd tsunami notification message was received from the PTWC with arrival times in the Cayman Islands for the (1 to 3 foot) tsunami wave.

At 2:27 HMCI used the National Emergency Notification to interrupt all radio stations again, alerting the public that an earthquake occurred, the potential for a tsunami and recommended protective actions.

At 2:30 pm the Joint Communications Service (JCS), Government’s crisis communications team was activated and assembled at HMCI.

At 2:34 the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the official source for earthquake information issued its first alert about the event confirming the earthquake to be 7.7 M (not a 7.3 M event as initially reported by PTWC)

Between 2:45 pm and 2:50 pm HMCI issued updates on social media and the Cayman Prepared website urging persons to move away from coastal areas and if in low lying areas to evacuate vertically in strong multi-story buildings.

Between 3:04 and 3:08 pm HMCI issued updates on social media and the Cayman Prepared website stating that it was now considered unlikely that the Cayman Islands would be impacted by a damaging tsunami as information from the PTWC indicated the first tsunami wave would have already passed the Cayman Islands and the main threat now related to the possibility of aftershocks.

At approximately 3:14 pm HMCI confirmed on the Sea Level Monitoring facility in George Town that a 1.5 foot tsunami had been recorded in the Harbour.

Between 3:49 and 3:54 pm HMCI issued the all clear for the tsunami threat. The release confirmed that a preliminary damage assessment was underway and several sinkholes had opened up and at least one property had sustained damage, but there were no reports of injuries to persons in the Cayman Islands. Advice was provided about safety actions to take in the event of an aftershock.

Messages continued to be issued etc.