SUU Japan Relief Fund raised over $4000

Tony of Dixie Direct- Presenting Jen the checks for $4,300!!

On May 11, 2011, 2 months from the day the major earthquake and Tsunami hit the North East Coast of Japan, Jennie McBride was presented two checks from Dixie Direct totaling $4,300.

SUU Japan Relief Fund won $1,000 on a facebook contest hosted by Dixie Direct by getting the most votes.  SUU was the last group to join the contest and had less than half the time to compile the votes, but the students of SUU pulled ahead of the leaders within a few days and took the lead for the remainder of the contest!

Students in Jen’s PE 1098, and PE 2100 class also sold Dixie Direct Books to help raise money for schools in Ishinomaki, Japan.  Within just a few weeks they raised $3,300 from selling Dixie Direct Books.  SUU Japan Relief Fund wishes to thank Dixie Direct for the opportunity to raise $4,300 to help students in Ishinomaki, Japan.  We couldn’t have raised that much money so easily and so quickly without your help, support, and great “product”.  THANK YOU!

The students also wrote notes of support for the schools hit hard by the devastation in Japan.  The cards, letters, posters of sports teams have arrived in Japan.  Here are some photos of the students who received letters and cards!!!

Students in Ishinomaki, Japan receive cards from SUU Students

Students in Ishinomaki, Japan

The money will be sent directly to the schools of Ishinomaki, Japan.  Currently, some of the schools are still using their gyms as shelters.  We are donating money to help provide mobile equipment to these specific schools so that the students can still engage in Physical Education activities outdoors.

This donation will not only help the students know that people in Southern Utah care about them, it will help them continue to participate in PE despite the challenges this small community faces on a day to day basis.

Once again, I am so grateful for the students and their efforts, for Tony Chambers of Dixie Direct, the Facebook contest, for friends and families of students who bought the books, and wrote letters, and for the evidence that by small and simple things, great miracles can come about!  Thank you, one and all!

Posted in Ishinomaki City, Japan Tsunami 2011, Miscellaneous, Sendai Japan Earthquake 2011 | 2 Comments

BBC News reports “Fukushima: What happened – and what needs to be done”

Paul shared the following story from BBC news about the Nuclear Power Plants in Fukushima. As always, thanks for sharing the info Paul!

The complete link to the article is below. The article was written by “Malcolm Grimston is an associate fellow of Chatham House’s Energy, Environment and Development Programme, and a senior research fellow in the Energy Policy and Management Group at Imperial College, London.”

Fukushima Japan

One way of looking at the drama that has unfolded around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors is as a narrative with one central plot, and a number of sub-plots distracting the attention.

The main story is well established. At 14:46 local time on 11 March, a magnitude 9 earthquake struck off Japan’s north-east coast.

The 11 operating nuclear power reactors in the region all “tripped” as designed (the nuclear fission process was stopped).

Nuclear Power

However, the fuel in a nuclear reactor continues to produce considerable amounts of heat even when fission has stopped, and the key task – the main plot in this drama – is to keep water circulating over the fuel to remove that decay heat.

This is to prevent damage to the fuel rods, and to the containment around the reactor – the thick steel pressure vessel and the surrounding concrete structure designed to keep fissile material isolated from the outside world in all circumstances.

Mains electric power to the pumps providing this cooling water was lost in the earthquake, so back-up diesel generators kicked in, again as designed, and all looked good. But an hour later the tsunami hit, taking out the diesel generators and the oil storage tanks. Fukushima Daiichi was designed to withstand a six-metre tsunami – 15 metres was just too much.

All the reactors except Daiichi 1-3 were brought into “cold shutdown”, with water circulating as required, some after minor problems. But at the three oldest Fukushima plants, connected to the grid between 1970 and 1974, the loss of power to the pumps led to water in the pressure vessel boiling and the fuel heating up hugely.

The zirconium alloy cans that contain the fuel pellets burst and it is probable that some fuel melted, though we cannot yet be sure about this.

The early decision to evacuate people from the immediate area was crucial – it gave the operators flexibility to deal with the immediate problem, which was the build-up of pressure inside the pressure vessel as the water boiled.

Too much pressure would burst the seals in the pressure vessel and allow material to escape, so it was necessary to vent these gases.

However, inevitably, letting the steam out also allowed escapes of hydrogen (caused by the zirconium reacting with water or steam at high temperatures) and small amounts of radioactive material which had leaked from the broken fuel rods.

This was the cue for the first subplot – the explosion in the outer buildings of Reactor 1 on the 12 March, followed by a similar explosion in Reactor 3 on 14 March, caused by hydrogen mixing with air.

Dramatic as the pictures were, these explosions did not seem to damage the containment. On the other hand, an explosive noise from within Reactor 2 on 15 March led to fears that there might be a breach in part of the containment, known as the suppression chamber or “torus” – again, we still do not know for sure.

By now, with no power available on site, the water level inside Reactors 1 to 3 was sinking and the fuel was seriously overheating.

Fresh water supplies ran out, so a decision was taken to switch to seawater, and to inject it from fire trucks through a fire extinguishing line. Later, a new supply of fresh water became available from a local dam, and this is now being used, as salt deposits from the seawater risked jamming up valves and causing other damage in the cores.

This operation is continuing, with estimates suggesting that water levels are now above half-way up the fuel in the core of Reactors 1-3, enough to introduce an element of stability while work continues to restore mains power to the cooling system pumps.

Fuel ponds
Power is back to the plant as a whole, but these pumps have not yet been switched on. It is also likely that many of them will need replacing because of damage suffered during the tsunami.

The second subplot centres on the spent fuel ponds, where fuel that has been taken out of the reactor is cooled for some months until it is taken away for processing. The water supply to these ponds – to replace water lost through evaporation – was interrupted, resulting in boiling.

At Reactor 4, where there was an unusually large amount of spent fuel in the pond, there seems to have been damage to the zirconium fuel rods, and, possibly, a release of hydrogen – there was at any rate another explosion, which damaged the outer building.

It was now necessary to get water into those ponds to prevent major releases of radioactivity, hence the extraordinary sight of a helicopter dropping water from the air and high pressure hoses being directed as best as could be towards the ponds through the wrecked outer buildings.

Water is now being supplied through specialised high-reach pumps normally used for injecting concrete, and via internal plumbing.

Then came the leak of highly contaminated water from a service pit near Reactor 2, resulting in discharges to the sea. A 20cm crack was detected and sealed using a polymer called “water glass”, though where the contamination came from in the first place remains unclear.

And in yet another subplot, waste water reservoirs on site became full of lightly contaminated water, leaving no space for more heavily contaminated water – requiring a further (light) release into the sea.

Traces of plutonium – which may have originated in the spent fuel ponds of Reactor 4 – were also detected in soil at the site.

These subplots, though not really going anywhere in themselves, have on a number of occasions made it necessary to take resources away from the main task – the cooling of the reactors – either because of a need to deal with them directly or to avoid high worker doses while associated spikes in radiation levels passed.

In the long term, a decision could be taken to remove the fuel from the cores of Reactors 1-3, as at Three Mile Island in the US”

The top priority is to get the pumps working that will keep the cores of Reactors 1-3 cool, as the fuel continues to produce decay heat. Success could be defined as cold shutdown – bringing the temperature down below boiling point (100C).

At present, the water temperature inside the reactors is unknown, but temperatures on the outer surface of the pressure vessels range from 84C to 222C.

Beyond that it is important to restore a reliable water supply to the spent fuel ponds, or to remove the spent fuel to another facility, and to make sure that any cracks or other breaches of masonry are blocked to minimise further releases into the environment.

In the long term, a decision could be taken to remove the fuel from the cores of Reactors 1-3, as at Three Mile Island in the US.

So far the amounts of radioactive materials released from the site are very unlikely to cause any detectable long-term health problems – though there will need to be a careful study of contamination in the area.

In the meantime, further subplots would not be helpful.

Malcolm Grimston is an associate fellow of Chatham House’s Energy, Environment and Development Programme, and a senior research fellow in the Energy Policy and Management Group at Imperial College, London.

Source Link=

Click here to go to article at BBC News

Posted in Japan Tsunami 2011, Safety, Sendai Japan Earthquake 2011 | 17 Comments

Japan Nuke Crisis as Severe as Chernobyl

Associated Press Japan Nuke Crisis

This morning the following was posted on by the associated Press…


TOKYO – Japan raised the crisis level at its crippled nuclear plant Tuesday to a severity on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, citing high overall radiation leaks that have contaminated the air, tap water, vegetables and seawater.
Japanese nuclear regulators said they raised the rating from 5 to 7 — the highest level on an international scale of nuclear accidents overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency — after new assessments of radiation leaks from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant since it was disabled by the March 11 tsunami.

The new ranking signifies a “major accident” that includes widespread effects on the environment and health, according to the Vienna-based IAEA. But Japanese officials played down any health effects and stressed that the harm caused by Chernobyl still far outweighs that caused by the Fukushima plant.
The revision came a day after the government added five communities to a list of places people should leave to avoid long-term radiation exposure. A 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius already had been cleared around the plant.

The news was received with chagrin by residents in Iitate, one of the five communities, where high levels of radiation have been detected in the soil. The village of 6,200 people is about 40 kilometers from the Fukushima plant.
“It’s very shocking to me,” said Miyuki Ichisawa, 52, who runs a coffee shop in Iitate. “Now the government is officially telling us this accident is at the same level of Chernobyl.”

Iitate’s town government decided Tuesday to ban planting of all farm products, including rice and vegetables, said local official Shinichi Momma. The national government earlier banned rice growing there but not necessarily vegetables.
Japanese officials said the leaks from the Fukushima plant so far amount to a tenth of the radiation emitted in the Chernobyl disaster, but said they eventually could exceed Chernobyl’s emissions if the crisis continues.

“This reconfirms that this is an extremely major disaster. We are very sorry to the public, people living near the nuclear complex and the international community for causing such a serious accident,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.
But Edano told reporters there was no “direct health damage” so far from the crisis. “The accident itself is really serious, but we have set our priority so as not to cause health damage.”

Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear physicist at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, said the revision was not a cause for worry, that it had to do with the overall release of radiation and was not directly linked to health dangers. He said most of the radiation was released early in the crisis and that the reactors still have mostly intact containment vessels surrounding their nuclear cores.

The change was “not directly connected to the environmental and health effects,” Unesaki said. “Judging from all the measurement data, it is quite under control. It doesn’t mean that a significant amount of release is now continuing.”
Prime Minister Naoto Kan, in a national television address, urged the public not to panic and to focus on recovering from the disaster.

“Right now, the situation of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant has been stabilizing step by step. The amount of radiation leaks is on the decline,” he said. “But we are not at the stage yet where we can let our guards down.”

Continued aftershocks following the 9.0-magnitude megaquake on March 11 are impeding work on stabilizing the Fukushima plant — the latest a 6.3-magnitude one Tuesday that prompted plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, to temporarily pull back workers.

Officials from Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that the cumulative amount of radioactive particles released into the atmosphere since the incident had reached levels that apply to a Level 7 incident. Other factors included damage to the plant’s buildings and accumulated radiation levels for its workers.
“We have refrained from making announcements until we have reliable data,” said NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said. “The announcement is being made now because it became possible to look at and check the accumulated data assessed in two different ways,” he said, referring to measurements from NISA and Japan’s Nuclear Security Council.

NISA and the NSC have been measuring emissions of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137, a heavier element with a much longer half-life. Based on an average of their estimates and a formula that converts elements into a common radioactive measure, the equivalent of about 500,000 terabecquerels of radiation from iodine-131 has been released into the atmosphere since the crisis began.
That well exceeds the Level 7 threshold of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale of “several tens of thousands of terabecquerels” of iodine-131. A terabecquerel equals a trillion becquerels, a measure for radiation emissions.

The government says the Chernobyl incident released 5.2 million terabecquerels into the air — about 10 times that of the Fukushima plant.
If the leaks continue, the amount of radioactivity released in Fukushima could eventually exceed the amount emitted by Chernobyl, a possibility that Naoki Tsunoda, a TEPCO spokesman, said the company considers “extremely low.”
In Chernobyl, in the Ukraine, a reactor exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing a cloud of radiation over much of the Northern Hemisphere. A zone about 19 miles (30 kilometers) around the plant was declared uninhabitable, although some plant workers still live there for short periods and a few hundred other people have returned despite government encouragement to stay away.

In 2005, the Chernobyl Forum — a group comprising the International Atomic Energy Agency and several other U.N. groups — said fewer than 50 deaths could be confirmed as being connected to Chernobyl. It also said the number of radiation-related deaths among the 600,000 people who helped deal with the aftermath of the accident would ultimately be around 4,000.

The U.N. health agency, however, has said about 9,300 people are likely to die of cancers caused by radiation. Some groups, including Greenpeace, have put the numbers 10 times higher.

The Fukushima plant was damaged in a massive tsunami that knocked out cooling systems and backup diesel generators, leading to explosions at three reactors and a fire at a fourth that was undergoing regular maintenance and was empty of fuel.
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake that caused the tsunami immediately stopped the three reactors, but overheated cores and a lack of cooling functions led to further damage.

Engineers have pumped water into the damaged reactors to cool them down, but leaks have resulted in the pooling of tons of contaminated, radioactive water that has prevented workers from conducting further repairs.

A month after the disaster, more than 145,000 people are still living in shelters. The quake and tsunami are believed to have killed more than 25,000 people, but many of those bodies were swept out to sea and more than half of those feared dead are still listed as missing.


Posted in Japan Tsunami 2011, Missing Persons Ishinomaki Japan, Miyagi Prefecture Japan, Sendai Japan Earthquake 2011, Tsunami Ishinomaki 2011 | 17 Comments

7.4 Aftershock hits Miyagi Coast

Ishinomaki, Japan

I feel numb… I can’t imagine what the people of Ishinomaki must be feeling. The reported the following

“Japan was rattled by a strong aftershock and tsunami warning Thursday night nearly a month after a devastating earthquake and tsunami flattened the northeastern coast.
Associated Press

TOKYO—Japan was rattled by a magnitude-7.4 aftershock Thursday night nearly a month after a devastating earthquake and tsunami flattened the northeastern coast.

The strongest aftershock since the day of the magnitude-9.0 megaquake was a fresh blow to victims of that March 11 quake and subsequent tsunami that killed some 25,000 people, tore apart hundreds of thousands of homes and has sparked an ongoing crisis at a nuclear power plant.

Damage and injuries from the aftershock were not immediately clear. The Japan meteorological agency briefly issued another tsunami warning Thursday night, but later cancelled it.

Officials at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant said there was no immediate sign of new problems caused by the aftershock. Japan’s nuclear safety agency says workers there have retreated to a quake-resistant shelter in the complex. No one there was injured.

Officials say Thursday’s aftershock hit 50 kilometres under the water and off the coast of Miyagi prefecture. The quake that preceded last month’s tsunami was a 9.0-magnitude. The U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., later downgraded Thursday’s quake to 7.1.

Buildings as far away as Tokyo shook for about a minute.

In Ichinoseki, inland from Japan’s eastern coast, buildings shook violently, knocking items from shelves and toppling furniture, but there was no heavy damage to the buildings themselves. Immediately after the quake, all power was cut. The city went dark, but cars drove around normally and people assembled in the streets despite the late hour.

The quake struck at 11:32 p.m. local time.

Paul Caruso, a geophysicist at USGS, said it struck at about the same location and depth as last month’s hug quake. It’s the strongest of the more than 1,000 aftershocks that have been felt since, except for a 7.9 aftershock that day.

Another USGS geophysicist, Don Blakeman, said it was the strongest aftershock since March 11, although several aftershocks on that day were bigger.

The USGS said the aftershock struck off the eastern coast 65 kilometres from Sendai and 115 kilometres from Fukushima. It was about 330 kilometres from Tokyo.

A Pacific Tsunami Warning Center evaluation of the quake said an oceanwide tsunami was not expected. However, it noted quakes of that strength can cause waves that are destructive locally.


Posted in Ishinomaki, Ishinomaki City, Japan Tsunami 2011, Missing Persons Ishinomaki Japan, Sendai Japan Earthquake 2011 | 28 Comments

See Video of One Man’s Experience in Ishinomaki, Japan

Images from Ishinomaki, Japan

See the images and read the words of one mans account of the March 11, 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami that hit Ishinomaki, Japan.

This video was made by Mr. Kusaka Yoichi. You can visit his blog at to see more pictures taken in and around Ishinomaki.

Posted in Ishinomaki, Ishinomaki City, Japan Tsunami 2011, Missing Persons Ishinomaki Japan, Miyagi Prefecture Japan, Sendai Japan Earthquake 2011, Tsunami Ishinomaki 2011 | 20 Comments

Interactive Photo displays # of dead and Missing in Japanese Cities

Paul shared a great link from New York Times that shows a map of Japan and as you hover over the different cities you can find out how many people are missing or dead. You can also see images of those cities.

This is a great resource. Thank you Paul!


Here is a screenshot of what it looks like!

Screen Shot Ishinomaki Dead and Missing April 1, 2011

Posted in Ishinomaki, Ishinomaki City, Japan Tsunami 2011, Missing Persons Ishinomaki Japan, Miyagi Prefecture Japan, Sendai Japan Earthquake 2011, Tsunami Ishinomaki 2011 | 20 Comments

What can we do to HELP SUU win $1000 for Japan?

HELP SUU WIN $1000 for Japan


Dixie Direct is having a contest for all of their fundraising groups. The group that has the most votes gets $1000 for their cause. Please take the time to visit Dixie Direct’s CONTEST and vote for SUU JAPAN RELIEF FUND. It only takes 30 seconds and you can help us get 6 votes a day for the next 2 weeks.

The contest ends April 15th at 5:00 PM. You can enter one name per email once a day, but their are 6 votes available if you click on share on facebook button and go to 1Law and also vote there!

Will you help us?

Thank you for helping us raise money to send to Japan by Voting on Dixie Direct’s FaceBook Contest!

UPDATE: We are now in third place…


Posted in Ishinomaki, Ishinomaki City, Japan Tsunami 2011, Miyagi Prefecture Japan, Sendai Japan Earthquake 2011 | 44 Comments

April 1, 2011 Helping Japan, SUU and Dixie Direct

Jen Ford (McBride) July 1990 View along the Eastern Coast of Japan near Ishinomaki

21 years ago, I was in Ishinomaki, Japan as a Summer Foreign Exchange Student with the Lions Club Exchange program. 21 years ago, I never thought that I would be putting together a fundraiser to help raise money for my friends of Ishinomaki. A report I read yesterday stated that Ishinomaki, Japan was untouched by World War II and the last big Tsunami was in 900 AD. It has been over 1000 years since they have faced a disaster of this magnitude.

Ishinomaki, Japan March 15, 2011

I want to do something. I want to help my friends. But what can I do to make a difference?

After a week of blogging and crying, I had to go back to work. I teach 7 classes at Southern Utah University, in Cedar City Utah. I have over 300 students. GREAT STUDENTS, who I love and respect! I shared my desire with my students. Like I said, they are great students and they came up with several great ideas. I loved the slogan School to School. We thought about how SUU could help a school in Ishinomaki. We thought about doing a 5K, putting cans at local businesses to help raise money. We discussed who to work with.

It wasn’t until the end of the week that I thought of my friend Tony and Dixie Direct in St George, Utah.Dixie Direct is a local discount book/card that is sold to help groups raise money for schools. Local Businesses offer promotional deals like 2-4-1 meals, tickets… There are great golf discounts and several restaurants offer 10% off all year. I called Tony last week and he gave me a trunk load of books to sell. The books are $35.00 and we get to keep $17.50. If 100 students sell 1 book each that is 1,750. If all of my students sell just one book that is over $5,000.

This past week students volunteered to sell books to help raise money for Japan. I handed out over 100 books to students so far. And we just started this week. Hopefully we will be able to send a big donation from SUU and Dixie Direct. I will keep you posted on how much we are able to raise and where the money goes!

If anyone is local and is interested in buying a dixie direct book to help us raise money for Japan, feel free to contact me via the contact page and I will get you a dixie direct book.

Dixie Direct Savings Guide

Posted in Ishinomaki, Ishinomaki City, Japan Tsunami 2011, Missing Persons Ishinomaki Japan, Miyagi Prefecture Japan, Sendai Japan Earthquake 2011, Tsunami Ishinomaki 2011 | 27 Comments

Volunteers in Ishinomaki


People are making a difference. There are times that I am very disappointed by the acts of fellow humans. The news covers so many stories of murder, rape, robbery and tends to show the negative side of humans. I hate what has happened to Japan, the land and the people I love. But I love hearing about and reading about the many kind acts of my fellow humans, my brothers and sisters.

I found a blog about a group who are helping people in Japan and recommend you go and read it for yourself. People are there, in Ishinomaki, helping our friends. Thank you! Thank you!



Volunteers in Tents, in Ishinomaki, Japan

Posted in Ishinomaki, Ishinomaki City, Japan Tsunami 2011, Miyagi Prefecture Japan, Sendai Japan Earthquake 2011, Tsunami Ishinomaki 2011 | 8 Comments

Ishinomaki, Japan 3 weeks after the Tsunami

Ishinomaki, Japan

The following article was published by the Washington Post about Ishinomaki, Japan. Full Source link Below! By Andrew Higgins, Brigid Schulte and Joel Achenbach, Tuesday, March 29, 9:39 PM

The mayor, a former engineering professor, enjoyed talking about science and saw an opportunity to speak to potential investors about his city’s overlooked charms. Ishinomaki was not glamorous, but it had fine roads, a university and a lovely, meandering coastline dotted with bays and beaches.

His city had excellent access to the sea.

That morning, Toshikatsu Kumagai, a 34-year-old newspaper reporter, set off in the same direction, stopping in a nearby town to get details about a local council budget meeting. It was shaping up as a slow news day. Kumagai’s paper, circulation 5,000, would hit the streets that afternoon with a front-page story about an elderly councilman who had died of an ulcer and an article about children who had performed well in an abacus contest.

A few miles away, on the other side of Ishinomaki, Taylor Anderson, a 24-year-old English teacher from Richmond, rode her bike that morning to Mangokuura Elementary School. She needed to work on plans for a graduation ceremony the next day.

Spring was close at hand, but the fields were still brown. The forecast called for a late-winter snow. The ocean was cold, gray and calm.

Out at sea, beneath the floor of the Pacific, immense and chaotic geological forces were at work. They were invisible to humans, save for the suggestion in the rugged landscape that this is a place shaped by ancient compressions and upheavals.

In this land of volcanoes, earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis, the Japanese people have overcome natural catastrophes and a terrible world war to create a highly advanced, technological society. They pride themselves on disaster preparation. Their buildings can roll with seismic waves. Their coastal cities have seawalls and tsunami sirens.

In Ishinomaki, loudspeakers dangled from lampposts, ready to broadcast the warning that a wave was coming and everyone must run for higher ground.

Mayors, journalists, teachers, schoolchildren — they all knew how to take cover under a desk when the earth began to shake. They were fully prepared for a disaster.

But no one could have been ready for the one they got.

The teacher: Taylor Anderson taught English to Japanese students in a program that assigned her to eight different schools in this coastal city. She had been in Japan 2 1/2 years, working on contract with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET). She loved the country, loved the language, loved reading Japanese authors and had begun to play taiko, the Japanese drum.

She hung out with other American teachers, organizing their trips to karaoke bars. The American schoolteachers in Ishinomaki called themselves the “Ishi crew,” and many lived in the same apartment building in an older part of the city.

Ishinomaki, population 162,000, wasn’t anyone’s first choice for a teaching assignment. It wasn’t as exciting as Tokyo or even Sendai. And it had a certain smell. That was one of the first things many Americans noticed. Fish processors made pink paste that the Japanese plopped onto ramen noodles. Miso factories made paste from fermented soybeans. Another factory made paper, and another made soy sauce.

But Ishinomaki, a sprawling wedge of land that included a city and a host of towns and villages, grew on the foreign teachers. Although newer sections were crowded with fast-food joints, 7-Elevens and retail stores, the older part of town had wooden structures that preserved the traditional texture of Japan. The city had never been the target of a bombing raid during World War II. It had never had a major fire. The worst event had been a tsunami in A.D. 869, so far back in time as to be almost mythical.

This was, from all appearances, a place where nothing much had ever happened, and nothing much ever would.

At 2:46 that afternoon, one of the American teachers, Aaron Jarrad, 26, had just said goodbye to his youngest students and was typing on his laptop, setting up his teaching schedule into August. When the earth began to shake, he slid underneath a table.

Jarrad, who came from Phoenix, knew what an earthquake felt like — there’d been one just a couple of days earlier. He’d been a little unnerved. Some of the Japanese teachers had teased the jittery American.

“This is Japan. We have earthquakes. Get over it,” they had told him.

But this was more violent. When the shaking stopped, Jarrad typed a one word e-mail to his family in Phoenix.


Jarrad’s friend Steve Corbett, driving to a favorite coffee shop, pulled over as the ground heaved. A hotel in front of him swayed so violently that the 25-year-old schoolteacher feared it would collapse. People ran out of a sushi restaurant and an electronics store, embracing one another, falling to their knees. Corbett had lived through his share of earthquakes growing up in California, but he had never felt the earth convulse like this. The worst lasted five minutes. Corbett timed the aftershocks. The earth didn’t settle for 12 minutes.

“I honestly was expecting crevices to open in the ground in front of my eyes,” he said later.

Hiroshi Kameyama, the mayor of Ishinomaki, put on a formal business suit that morning, March 11, and drove 35 miles down the coast to Sendai to attend a symposium on the commercialization of algae.He turned on the radio and heard a man speaking frantically:

“It is now 2:55 p.m. At approximately 3:00 p.m., a tsunami six meters [19 feet] in height will reach land in Miyagi prefecture. Move now to the highest ground you can find.”

Corbett gunned his car to the nearest hill.

“I thought I was running for my life with the end of the world chasing me,” he said.

At Mangokuura Elementary School, Anderson and the other teachers had led their students onto the playground and had helped parents retrieve their children. More than 300 of the kids had been swiftly whisked away when the tsunami warning sounded. About 50 remained. The teachers decided to move them to a nearby junior high that was farther inland.

Anderson helped, then jumped on her bike.

“A tsunami will come,” a teacher, Fuminao Takada, recalls warning her.

“I know,” Anderson replied in Japanese, nodding.

The teachers saw her pedaling away, standing high on the bike, pumping furiously. Anderson headed down Route 398, the Onagawa Highway, which paralleled the coast, not far from the open water of Ishinomaki Bay.

The science: The Big One was supposed to hit elsewhere. The consensus among public officials and many scientists in Japan was that the next mega-quake would most likely occur on the Nankai Trough, a tectonic plate boundary southwest of Tokyo. Two sections of that fault had already broken, and since the 1970s the scientific orthodoxy in Japan had been that the easternmost section was primed to break next. Officials had designated the hypothetical event the “Tokai Earthquake.”

But earthquake science is still a young field, and the seismological record goes back only a century or so. The theory of plate tectonics dates only to the 1960s. It has been only since that time that scientists have come to understand that the Japan Trench, a deep furrow in the sea floor running north to south just off the coast of Japan, is where two enormous plates of the Earth come together, one fitfully sliding beneath the other. The entire Pacific Plate is moving toward Japan at about 3 1/2 inches a year. Its leading edge is jammed under Japan, and the country is literally being lifted higher. The strain builds over time, until it is released in an earthquake.

Scientists believed that this section of the Japan Trench could experience magnitude 7 and 8 earthquakes, perhaps as high as 8.4, but not magnitude 9. That’s the difference between a destructive event and a catastrophic one. The earthquake scale is logarithmic: A magnitude 9 is 10 times more powerful than a magnitude 8.

Only in the past few years had a few scientists decided that perhaps the seismological community had underestimated the Japan Trench’s capacity for a mega-quake. One man in particular sounded the alarm: Yasutaka Ikeda, a University of Tokyo seismologist.

Ikeda’s calculations showed that the magnitude 7 and 8 earthquakes along the Japan Trench were not releasing all the strain that had to be accumulating over time. In 2006, he put together a PowerPoint presentation titled “Long-term and short-term rates of crustal deformation over the northeast Japan arc, and their implications for gigantic earthquakes at the Japan Trench.”

His concluding slide stated that most of the strain would be released “in association with a big decoupling event (Mw ~9) on the subduction zone!”

He had no idea when this magnitude 9 event might happen. Such is the unfortunate fact of earthquake science.

On the morning of March 11, Ikeda took a flight to China. When he landed, he heard that there had been a magnitude 8.8 earthquake on the Japan Trench. He didn’t believe it at first. There must be some mistake.

But it was true. Indeed, it turned out to be a 9.0 quake — the largest in the history of Japan.

Ikeda felt sick. He suddenly had no desire to return home. He didn’t want to see what had happened. His theory had been vindicated, but he felt nothing but sorrow and regret.

Because what difference had his research made?

“It’s not a success story at all,” he said later by e-mail. “It’s my regret and many Japanese geologists’ regret that our works had nothing to do with mitigating disaster caused by the Mw 9.0 earthquake of 11th March.

“We did fail.”

The reporter: Toshikatsu Kumagai, the newspaper reporter, thought he knew about tsunamis. He remembered the last one, just a year ago, after the Chilean earthquake sent a wave across the Pacific. By the time it hit Ishinomaki, it was ankle-high and barely slapped the beach.

So he wasn’t perturbed by this latest tsunami warning. Driving his white Honda home on a road near the coast, he hoped to see the wave come in.

Around 3:20 p.m., as he neared a bridge over the Satagawa, a usually placid river on the western side of Ishinomaki, he saw a truck in front of him come to an abrupt stop. He got out of the car, more curious than alarmed, and started taking photographs.

Then, the screams.

“I heard this strange sound — zah-zah-zah — and saw water splashing over the bridge. I thought ‘This is a tsunami.’?”

His car was blocked by the truck. He had to make a run for it. With the water racing toward him, he ran to the side of the road and spotted a fence. He would climb it, he told himself, and stay above the water.

That was when the wave swallowed him up.

This was like the tsunami of A.D. 869 — an event out of deep time, beyond anyone’s experience. It was simple physics at work. The giant plates of the Earth had decoupled in a magnitude-9 release of strain, just as Ikeda had predicted. The seafloor had risen, lifting the ocean, creating a hill of water just off the coast. The ensuing tsunami functioned like a fleet of bulldozers lined up side to side, with more bulldozers behind them. The waves leveled everything in their path.

“So this is what dying is like,” Kumagai thought.

The mayor

Take me back to Ishinomaki, said Hiroshi Kameyama, the mayor, to his driver outside the hotel in Sendai.

Kameyama had come out of academia and was now 68, bespectacled and less buttoned-down than the typical Japanese public official. He was a member of the Japanese Society for Laughter and Humor Studies, a tongue-in-cheek scholarly organization. Nothing in his past had prepared him for what he would face in the hours ahead.


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The mayor telephoned his wife. She said their house was filling with water. She was on the second floor with the mayor’s 92-year-old mother, enduring a barrage of aftershocks.

The roads had been crumpled by the temblor, and Kameyama’s driver made slow progress. The mayor noticed rice fields that were inundated. But it couldn’t be so: They had taken a route away from the coast, miles from the sea.

Night fell. Not until 10 p.m. did they reach the center of the city. A journey that would normally take 45 minutes had lasted seven hours.

With no electricity to power streetlights or homes, it was pitch dark. The mayor got out to walk the rest of the way to his office, but the water was too high. His mobile phone went dead.

“Everything was sinking,” he said.

In City Hall, hundreds of bureaucrats were marooned on the upper floors of the hulking pink building. Originally a department store, it had few windows. All the exits were submerged. An emergency generator provided flickering light.

Around 11, he finally reached a makeshift emergency command center in Ishinomaki’s Red Cross Hospital, located on high ground about 21 / 2 miles from the sea.

The mayor huddled with Self-Defense Forces officers on the second floor, grappling with agonizing decisions about how to deploy the few resources still under their control — a handful of ambulances that hadn’t been swept away, a few doctors who had managed to reach higher ground. The aftershocks continued to rattle the darkened city.

“It was total chaos. I had to be very strict,” the mayor said later. He ordered the hospital to admit only those in need of treatment and turn away others who simply needed a safe place to stay.

As temperatures dipped to near freezing, tens of thousands of residents were left to fend for themselves.

A night adrift

Kumagai, the reporter, had never learned to swim. Now he found himself in what had become, for the moment, an extension of the Pacific Ocean — a great mass of seawater tipped by the earthquake onto the shores of northern Japan.

He struggled to stay above the surface, freezing and battered by broken pieces of the world he once inhabited. He found rescue in the form of a plastic tub that bobbed in the water. The tub kept him afloat. He eventually saw the red hull of a capsized boat and, exhausted, clambered atop it.

As night fell, the snow came. A house torn from its foundations floated by with people clinging to the roof. They shouted to him, then disappeared into the darkness. His own sanctuary twisted in the water but stayed in place, snagged on debris.

“I just sat still trying to not waste any energy,” he recalled.

He dozed off briefly. He startled awake to find the nightmare real.

Daybreak brought a glimmer of hope: A helicopter buzzed overhead. He waved. No one waved back. The helicopter was surveying a coastline of such overwhelming destruction and tragedy that a man clinging to a capsized boat was easily overlooked.

It was not until well into morning, some 18 hours after the tsunami carried him away, that another helicopter spotted Kumagai and hoisted him to safety. Soon he was at the Red Cross Hospital, where the mayor had wound up the night before.

Though bruised and worried about the numbness in his leg, he suffered most from what he didn’t know. He didn’t know who had lived and who had died. He didn’t know if his mother and father had survived.

There were so many people with worse injuries that he was quickly released from the hospital. He finally tracked down his parents, brother and pet cat, Chibi. They were among the lucky ones along this ravaged coast.

The missing: The morning after, Saturday, March 12, the scale of the disaster in Ishinomaki became clear. At Okawa Elementary School, only 31 of 108 students who had shown up for class were known to have survived. The rest were dead or missing. Following the same well-practiced drill that had been performed at Taylor Anderson’s school, the students had gathered on the playground to wait for help — and then were swept away by the tsunami.

Along the coast between Okawa and Ishinomaki’s central district, the town of Onagawa, population 10,000, had been erased but for a flooded hospital on a hill and the shattered remains of a marine exhibition hall. The tsunami had carried seawater miles inland, to places that couldn’t even see the ocean.

In the days afterward, the American teachers sent texts, e-mails or updated their Facebook pages when they could get a wireless signal. They tried to account for all 11 teachers who had been stationed in Ishinomaki. Corbett went from shelter to shelter, and from hospital to hospital, with a list of names.

Aaron Jarrad was finally able to send an e-mail to his family: “I love you all dearly im safe please don’t worry too much”

The only one missing was Anderson.

The school where she had taught that day had barely been damaged by the waves, and the U.S. Embassy initially told her family that she’d been spotted at a hospital. But when Anderson’s friends pressed embassy officials, they said they had spoken too soon.

Eleven days after the earthquake, Anderson’s body was found near a high school along the highway near the ocean, her friends said. She had made it about halfway back to her apartment.

The aftermath: Mayor Kameyama now spends his days struggling to comfort the citizens of Ishinomaki and trying to calm mounting anger over the shortage of food. He sleeps on a couch in his office. He worries about nuclear radiation.

The tsunami caused damage at a nuclear power plant in nearby Onagawa, and though officials say the danger there has passed, the mayor remains anxious. Eighty-five miles down the coast, workers for the Tokyo Electric Power Co. are struggling to bring the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi complex under control.

There was another aftershock Monday in Ishinomaki, and a tsunami warning. A false alarm, it turned out, but the authorities discovered that the batteries on many of the emergency loudspeakers no longer work. Officials scrambled to replace them.

By Tuesday, 2,283 corpses had been identified in Ishinomaki, and 2,643 people were still missing. Nearly 23,000 people were in shelters, and thousands more shivered in damaged and waterlogged homes.

The mayor wonders if the warning system worked too well over the years — if some people had grown complacent.

“We are too used to earthquakes and hearing alarms,” he said.

Scientists warn that another mega-quake is possible, perhaps one farther south on the Japan Trench, closer to Tokyo. It might not happen for many years, decades or even centuries. Or it could happen any day, any moment.,,
Higgins reported from Ishinomaki, Onagawa and Sendai; Schulte and Achenbach reported from Washington. Staff writers Michael Alison Chandler in Tokyo and Elizabeth Flock and researchers Kyoko Tanaka and Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

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