Saturday, March 19, 2011

No nukes is good nukes

Have you seen tee shirt that says "I'm with the bomb squad. If you see me running, try to keep up"?

We've had loads of e-mails and phone calls over the last 10 days. People here and in the states are worried, especially about radiation coming off the Fukushima power plant. My husband is a public health expert. When I see him running, I'll keep up.

Here's a map of Japan (sans Okinawa) that shows all the U.S. facilities and the epicenter of the quake. Yokosuka is south of Tokyo and 176 miles from Fukushima.

Today, we heard the first stories of food contamination. I know the military can easily arrange food shipments from the states, so still, I'm not concerned. However, I am staying prepared for evacuation, as instructed. I am doing laundry daily, we are not buying perishables or any other foods, since our freezer is fully stocked, and our bags are packed.

Word from Fukushima is encouraging, but in the long term, I suppose it's anyone's guess. Our friends are leaving or sending their children stateside. Word has gone out that the school year would continue, but more than one of our friends have already gone because school was closed until further notice.

While I was sweating in the cardio room this morning at 7:20, an attendant came in to announce that the gym would be secured in 10 minutes. I had that much time to shower, dress, pack up my clothes and get out. Speculation around Allan's office was that it may be used for processing the hordes who would be evacuating.

According to Stars 'n' Stripes, 4083 dependents have signed up for travel assistance. That doesn't include people who took commercial flights. Over in the building where I teach English on Monday, it's business as usual. But the base population has diminished.

Tonight we had dinner with friends. It's a department custom to celebrate the completion of a large project with a beer after work. Allan finished the Ship Repair Facility report. He did the survey last June and finished the report Friday. A beer just wouldn't do, so we went to Watami, our favorite restaurant.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Possible mandatory evacuation for Americans

On March 17th, the Dept. of Defense published information that they will assist in voluntary evacuation of military and civilian families from Japan. This would begin within 24 hours.
People will likely be moved to Korea, where they will be processed and await transportation to the states. Some, like our friend Chris are leaving from Narita on commercial flights, but we will remain here unless the situation takes a sharp turn.
Efforts to cool the reactors have been ongoing since the plant was damaged by the tsunami. What has not been said is how much progress has been made. After 7 days, perhaps the best case scenerio has not been realized, but has there been any progress? I don't know.
Today, Friday, March 18th at 7:30 am, Allan attended a department meeting where the possibility of mandatory evacuation was announced. We spent the day gathering information and filling out forms. We aren't expecting it to happen, but if the decision is made, it may happen this weekend, and we will get a call and report to base with the correct documentation and our limit of luggage.
Around base and in town, restaurants and stores are limiting hours in an effort to reduce power usage. We have been expecting brownouts at home, but so far, it hasn't happened.
The D.O.D. school year has been called, as of March 17th. Grades accumulated to date will be final. Our friend Karen is taking her son to Ohio to finish his junior and senior year.
Those who will not be evacuating, namely the Japanese, are handling things well. The radiation threat is monopolizing the news, but the rescue efforts and the rebuilding are still very important.
Our only chore now is to watch and wait.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown

Day six of disaster watch in Japan.
This earthquake produced 464 aftershocks in the first 4 days.
The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is the big issue. Allan is not overly concerned right now, but I'm not making any promises. We have CNN, so alot of our information is exactly what you can see in the U.S. The difference being that you also have Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, so you might know more than me.
We have received a message from the U.S. Ambassador. The nuclear situation is being monitored, etc.
Locally, the trains schedules are limited, which is a great hardship. Allan's friend Takagi-san waited until 10 am or so for the train to leave Yokohama. He was a bit late for work. Gas is an issue. I'm not sure if there is a shortage, or if people are just being cautious, but yesterday Allan and I passed a line of 37 cars waiting at a station. But the Japanese take it in stride.
Businesses are using reduced lighting, and it's kinda nice, the glare is missing. Grocery stores have empty shelves, so we're happy to have a fully-stocked kitchen.
Allan's work is not affected, but I've had a few cancellations in English classes. My only male student, Ichiro told me today that his son was in Sendai City during the earthquake. He was able to send a text and received a return text from his son saying that he was fine. He was not on the coast, so was away from the tsunami area. Whew...
We might limit our movement for a few weekends - gas shortage, reduced train schedules, radiation exposure, all that stuff. But it's not too bad. I finally got my birthday dinner last night at the Officers' Club. It was Mongolian Buffet with a game. Fill a bowl with raw meats and vegetables, then guess the priced at 75 cents per 28 grams (28 GRAMS!!! could they make it more complicated)? If you come within 5 cents of the total, your dinner is free. Guess who had a free birthday dinner! Then, since Tuesday is $1 movie night and we saw 'Green Hornet'. What were those guys thinking?
BTW: tomorrow is our half-way mark. We've been in Japan for 18 months. Can you believe it? If you're planning to visit, times a runnin' out. We're looking for a new post now, so who knows where we'll land? Keep watching.
So, how's everything with you?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Whole lotta shakin' going on

At shortly before 3 pm last Friday, yes - March 11th, my birthday, a fault line off the coast of Northern Japan shifted causing an 9.0 magnitude earthquake (jishin). Shortly afterward, as the epicenter was in the Pacific, a tidal wave (tsunami) hit the coast. Three hundred miles away, the quake was felt by Allan and me. He was in his office and I was at the base library on the first floor of a 4 story building.

Quakes are common enough in Japan that I went about my business for a while. Once it reached the 30 second mark, I thought I might go outside and wait it out. I was joined by a crowd of others. During the 7-8 minutes that the tremor lasted, most of us agreed this was the largest tremor we had experienced. Some of those people have been in Japan for more than 20 years.

Back in the library, about 25 minutes after the first tremor, we felt what I hoped was an aftershock (yoshin), and not a separate quake. Outside again, one of the men from the building told us there had been a tsunami, but we did not anticipate the depth of destruction that was taking place while we stood on the sidewalk. The wave was over 20 feet high in some areas and came ashore for 2-3 kilometers.

There was a short third tremor shortly after the second subsided. About 40-60 minutes had passed. By 4 pm, things were being shut down around the base, especially along the perimeter by Tokyo Bay. Allan and I had plans for a birthday dinner, but we could easily postpone that. Since the trains and buses had been shut down for the night, we offered to take a friend home. He lives in Yokohama and depends on the train, as do thousands of others

Since a local elevated highway was closed as well, there was gridlock on local roads and hundreds of people filling the sidewalks. Three hours later, we arrived home, our friend decided to walk rather than have us continue to Yokohama, as it would take around the same time either way.

Luckily, we had electricity when we arrived home and there was no damage.
We have been watching CNNj (j for Japan). But there is no local tv news in English, so we were unable to find out how Yokosuka would be affected. The following day, we cancelled plans to go to Kamakura, which is a cute town close by with shops, restaurants and beautiful cherry blossom trees. Winter is ending, and we were anxious to get out, but that can wait. We didn't know what was happening with the trains.

Knowing that family and friends would be waking up soon, we tried to send an email that night, but were unable to phone or get a message out. I woke up early on Saturday and put together a short message.

Train service has not been fully restored, and shops and restaurants are limiting hours or staying closed. Several of my students cancelled classes, since there is a shortage of gas, and very long lines at the stations. Today, a schedule of blackouts was made public. We are scheduled to be without power twice today for a total of about 5 hours. It is necessary, since five nuclear reactors have been shut down.

A plant in Fukushima had a partial meltdown Saturday and a 2nd today, but emergency measures have been taken since the beginning. One hundred, seventy thousand people were evacuated within a 15 mile radius of the plant. If I were in the area where something like this is happening, I would want the Japanese handling it. They are by nature very cautious, not likely to cut corners where safety is concerned.

Allan and I are well and safe. The Navy has deployed (moved) several of the ships located at Yokosuka to the affected area. Japan will recover. Volunteers from 45 countries are helping with the effort.