What might have played out as a sodden disaster Friday opened a three-day weekend for many South Coast workers and students who waited out a tsunami that arrived in slow surges.
Instead of a wall of water, Coos Bay and area estuaries experienced what one observer called "odd tides" that began Friday morning and continued through the afternoon.
Damage largely was limited to docks at Charleston, and no injuries were reported from the swells that originated from the site of an earthquake off Japan.
Police dispatchers were first to receive the warning from the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It came 12 minutes after the quake shook Japan.
Dispatchers started contacting vital players, said Helen Thompson, Coos Bay Police Department's public relations officer. Among them were city employees and waste management workers.
Sounds of sirens
Rob Schab, general manager of the Coos Bay-North Bend Water Board, got one of the calls a little after 2 a.m. The Water Board owns North Bend's tsunami sirens. Officials told him they intended to sound the alarm at 3 a.m.
"I got saddled up and drove over to the high school to make sure the siren went off," he said.
But many didn't hear it, and Schab said a lot of misconceptions surround the alarms' volume.
"They were never designed to penetrate every single room in every single house," he said.
In Coos Bay, the police department knocked on the doors of homes and apartments complex to advise tenants to evacuate, Thompson said.
The fire department set up evacuation centers. Marshfield High School housed 200 evacuees who were tended to by school and fire personnel.
Flocks of gawkers
Thompson said the morning went smoothly. The only related incident was increased traffic at Cape Arago and in Charleston from people wanting a closer look at the tsunami instead of heading for higher ground.
Thompson said people have been desensitized by small-scale effects of past warnings.
"It seems like people want to run toward danger instead of run away from it," she said.
The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay cut fuel and electricity to ships, and asked people to disembark, said Elise Hamner, communications director.
Electricity was restored to vessels at 4 p.m.
"We're glad so many people here have been patient with us," she said.
Although the port suffered damage to finger piers and pilings, Hamner extended an invitation to Coos Bay for ships seeking refuge from more badly damaged ports.
Managing the threat
By Friday afternoon, it was business as usual in the Bay Area.
But the alarm gave businesses a rare chance to run through their safety protocols, said Ray Doering, spokes-man for the Coquille Tribe.
The tribe's crisis management team began executing its action plan at about 1 a.m. at The Mill Casino-Hotel, which sits above the bay.
"The team was there all night keeping an eye on things ... reassuring all of our guests their safety was our concern," he said.
Doering said the team was prepared to handle an evacuation, had the danger come to that.
Meanwhile, tribal officials were assisting evacuees from Charleston at the tribe's Kilkich property, where a plankhouse became an emergency sanctuary.
Meanwhile in Bandon, the city's four tsunami sirens began blasting at 3 a.m., followed by a live message from City Manager Matt Winkel telling residents a wave of 6 feet was expected to hit at 7 a.m. and for people in low-lying areas to evacuate to higher ground.
Police Chief Bob Webb and other police and city personnel drove door to door, beginning with Heritage Place Assisted Living Facility on the South Jetty.
Heritage Place administrators decided not to evacuate, based on the estimated wave. Instead, residents were moved to the third floor, where they were comforted with coffee and doughnuts.
The city cut power to the old Coast Guard building, which houses port offices, and also turned off the power to the port's fuel facility on the high dock, and to the boat basin.
People flocked to the bluffs above the ocean, and Webb said he saw as many as 40 cars at the Face Rock Wayside.
The Bandon School District opened the high school gym as an evacuation center; at 5 a.m. 15 to 20 people were there. Webb said more came as the predicted wave impact drew near.
Businesses in Old Town were open, though a few remained closed until later in the day. The Minute Cafe opened at its usual 5:30 a.m. time, and considered closing, but decided to stay open.
"We were packed," said waitress Pauline Taylor.
Webb said people were cooperative about the evacuation, though some have given him a hard time about having the city set off the tsunami sirens at 3 a.m.
World reporters and editors Alice Campbell, James Casey, Gail Elber, Steve McCasland, Nathan Mitchell, Amy Moss Strong, Lori Newman, and Nate Traylor contributed to this report.