Tsunami in Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa 2

Taking a morning walk with my wife and one of the other regular morning walkers asks me if I knew if we were going to have a tsunami. Tsu what? Whatsup? First I heard about any possible tsunami. Why am I always the last one to know these things? Why did I not get the MEMO?

So there went the morning walk as Lupita and I rushed back home and turned on the news and the computer. Dang, unplug yourself from the world for a night and all hell breaks loose!

Japanese Tsunami Graph
Japanese Tsunami Graph

So the first thing I do is find is a graph estimating the arrival time. Then I told everyone it might start arriving around 11:00 or 12:00 because I forgot to notice the PST time indicator. Oops. Drink more coffee. Go back and fix error. Ahem!

On the radio a lady calls in to the morning talk show program asking if a wave and an earthquake were going to strike her home high on the hill at El Hujal. Looks like I’m not the only one having a morning brainfart…

So after finding out the estimated arrival time was actually shortly after 2:30 p.m. and getting my computer set up upstairs just in case, I grabbed my camera and walked down the waterfront towards the pier. A friend of mine said he thought the water was just starting to run out of the Las Salinas lagoon, so I hurried over to the bridge crossing the lagoon at El Almacén to get a good spot. Turns out I got there just in time as the show was getting started at 3:20 p.m.

Fishermen minding their boats
Fishermen minding their boats
People on El Almacén bridge
People on El Almacén bridge
People on El Almacén bridge
People on El Almacén bridge

There were three surges that I witnessed

, but I heard there were more. Each cycle lasting about 10 minutes and each one just a little more intense than the last. Fishermen were out minding their boats, and lots of people came to the bridge and shores of the lagoon to watch and film the eerie event. Surprisingly, no real stench arose from the swirling waters of lagoon. It smelled mostly like old mud. Nevertheless, folks were almost cheering as they watched the black water run out of the lagoon, hoping it would get a much needed flushing out. Unfortunately, the water that ran back in seemed to be the very same water that ran out. Oh well. Guess it’ll take more than a tsunami…

Las Salinas Lagoon
Las Salinas Lagoon

The birds were squawking and chirping and flying about quite agitated, and fish in the lagoon weren’t sure which way they should be fleeing to. Since we don’t see too many of these, folks were excited and enjoying the entertainment. Yes, even a tsunami can be fun, as long as it’s just a little one.

As I headed back towards the pier and the Playa Del Puerto, folks were giddy and chattering with excitement. We’d just had a tsunami! Everyone was talking about it. Even tourists were enjoying the added attraction.

Tsunami at Playa Del Puerto
Tsunami at Playa Del Puerto

But what struck me as really odd was seeing tourists swimming at the beach. It was clear even to folks away from their TV sets and news sources that something was going on, even though the bay appeared calm and the waves were gently lapping the beach.

Tsunami at Playa Del Puerto
Tsunami at Playa Del Puerto

Fortunately it was an extremely low tide when the tsunami hit at about 3:20 p.m. The height looked like it was just a about a meter in sea level height between the high water mark and the low water that I saw. Thank goodness it appears there’s no damage to report. Surges were still being reported at 11:00 p.m. that night and we noticed them still happening for several days afterwards.

Tsunami in Zihuatanejo

NOAA map of Chile tsunami 27 Feb 2010 (click to enlarge)
NOAA map of Chile tsunami 27 Feb 2010 (click to enlarge)

As the world awoke to the tragic news of an 8.8 earthquake in Chile on the morning of Saturday, February 27, 2010, here in Zihuatanejo we also awoke to a tsunami warning. It turned out that the best local source of information regarding the pending tsunami was my Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa Message Board where folks were finding and posting data from a variety of sources and keeping everyone else up to date. My family and I checked the radio and the television, but only CNN had any related news albeit not very specific to our region. No local or national media that we could find reported any helpful info until well past the event. Even the information we received by phoning the Capitanía del Puerto showed they didn’t have as much info as was available on my Message Board.

At various times between about 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM my wife and I both went to check the situation along the bayfront at the Playa Del Puerto (aka Playa Municipal aka Playa Principal) since the reports from NOAA had estimated that the tsunami could arrive as early as 10:45 AM. The cruise ship “Carnival Spirit” sat anchored in the bay offloading passengers like during any other visit. Water taxis appeared to be running passengers back and forth to Playa Las Gatas. Sport fishing boats were coming and going. Sightseeing boats full of tourists were cruising around the bay. The singer at a beachfront restaurant played without missing a beat, though he did mention something about the tsunami between songs. But most folks neither saw nor heard from any authorities until the event itself had long passed.

Apparently, around 10:30 AM local folks started hearing about a possible tsunami. The artists displaying their paintings in the Plaza del Artista began removing their works and more people seemed to show up on the beach to watch the bay. A news videographer filmed up and down the beach. Nothing unusual was to be seen, but the rumor mill was at work in town and neighbors gathered here and there to catch up on the latest info.

Around 12:15 PM I headed off to spend the day at my mother’s place in Ixtapa. Apparently right after I left reports started showing up on my Message Board describing what effects of the tsunami people had observed. Here’s what was posted:

Abigail wrote:


We have a good view of the bay and have been watching the bay to see how it reacts so if you are interested: As of 1:15 p.m.

Muddy swirls on both sides of the Puerto Mio jetty and that side of the town bay.

A little while ago the shore line dropped considerably and you could see about one third of the Las Gatas bay bottom. Now the waters have risen again. But Las Gatas water inside and outside the reef water looks as if it contains quite a bit of sand and debris. And murky swirl to the south of Las Gatas jetty.

One small boat was too close to shore and was “beached” when the shore line dropped.

Still people walking and swimming and sunning and parasailing on La Ropa.

Abigail’s Tsunami Photos

At 2:15 p.m. Carol commented:

The water in the bay has lowered enough that the water in the lagoon is running into the bay. Looks and smells really bad. Other than that all seems the same as any other day.

Shortly afterward Dianne posted:

My husband was just at the beach in Ixtapa this morning. At about 2:00 the hotel he was sitting in front of asked all people on the beach to leave, as a safety precaution. He said people all over the beach were being asked to leave.

And a little later Marty wrote:

“Tsunami Surge at La Ropa”

We sat on Playa La Ropa and watched the ocean level slowly go out about 50 feet and then came back with a 5 to 6 foot high surge. Just pushed water up high on the beach.

No damage, but interesting to sit there and watch.

And TJ added:

“Kudos to the Pacifica Resort Re: Tsunami”

We were at the Pacifica Resort in Ixtapa yesterday had heard about the earthquake in Chile and were well informed about the potential tsunami that may affect the area. At about noon the lower pool area and beach were vacated of all furniture and chairs and people were advised to go up to the next level or higher. The next level up (20-25 feet above sea level) consists of the reception area, a bar, restaurant and an infinity pool. At about 12:30 they brought out small sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads deserts and began serving what ever you wanted to drink, all at no charge. Overall a excellent example of plan for the worst, hope for the best and make your customers feel appreciated and safe.

Reports in local newspapers mentioned that a few boats in the lagoon suffered minor damages as the water ran out of the lagoon, but nothing else. Someone who was in the Dorado Pacífico Hotel in Ixtapa mentioned that at around 2:00 PM the hotel manager called all the guests in from the beach, and that other hotels did the same thing. 

It took a day or two for everyone’s nerves to calm down, and for a couple of days afterwards some folks would joke with their friends and neighbors saying “viene la OLA” (the WAVE is coming).

Water recedes at beach (click to enlarge)
Water recedes at beach (click to enlarge)

Water recedes from lagoon (click to enlarge)
Water recedes from lagoon (click to enlarge)

Low water at Playa Del Puerto (click to enlarge)
Low water at Playa Del Puerto (click to enlarge)

Low water at Playa La Madera (click to enlarge)
Low water at Playa La Madera (click to enlarge)

Here is what some of the local newspapers reported:

Despertar de la Costa
Provocó temor la alerta de tsunami

Compra Doxiciclina Online

, pero no hubo ni siquiera oleaje alto

Diario de Zihuatanejo
Solo alarma causaron las marejadas altas

El Sur de Acapulco
Evacuan playa Las Gatas y la isla de Ixtapa y cierran Zihuatanejo a la navegación menor

(Another) Zihuatanejo Earthquake

Just before 7:30 this morning I was awakened by my wife shouting frantically from downstairs “¡está temblando!” – it’s quaking! –

The sound of a freight train roaring in the distance quickly jolted me out of a perfect sleep because the closest train tracks are about 50 miles (80 km) away in Lázaro Cárdenas. I tripped into my shorts and sandals and hopped, skipped and jumped downstairs, all the time thinking “¡café! ¡café! ¿dónde está mi café?”

My wife and daughter were already on the ground floor with the front door open. I went into the street and looked up and down. Everything looked okay. Lampposts were still wobbling a bit. I was surprised that only a couple of other neighbors had bothered going outside. You’d think folks would at least try to save themselves. If it had been “the big one” we’d have had a lot of buried neighbors.

Fortunately this one appeared to have passed without any damage

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, and so far there haven’t been any replicas. But it sure set off a flurry of activity on my message board by other ex-pats in the region from Barra de Potosí to Troncones as well as by folks in other parts of Mexico, some who were surprised and/or concerned.

The official data from the Servicio Sismológico Nacional showed it to be a 5.3 on the Richter scale, occurring at 7:24:58 in the morning with an epicenter 44 kilometers west of Zihuatanejo at the coordinates (latitude) 17.54 and (longitude) -101.96 and at a depth of 25 km.

Shortly afterward I finally got that perfect cup of coffee I’d been hankering for, along with some fresh-squeezed orange juice with a delicious and still warm tamal de maiz as well as a tasty bolillo con requesón. Just another perfect day in Zihuatanejo, Mexico! ¡Ajuuuaaaa!

Zihuatanejo Earthquake 31 JAN 09