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Saturday, Mar. 19, 2011

Wine lovers in Oregon did not fear tsunami

CANNON BEACH, Ore. -- When two retired Kennewick educators headed to the Oregon coast last week, they didn't expect to learn that even a tsunami won't keep wine lovers away.

Hank and Nancy Sauer were part of an event called Savor Cannon Beach, a four-day food-and-wine festival held on the northern Oregon coast. They left the Tri-Cities on the morning of March 10 and put on an event that evening called the "Wine Throwdown," which attracted about 50 people.

After the event, they had dinner and headed to their hotel, the Ocean Lodge just south of Haystack Rock. They fell asleep around 11 p.m., not knowing about a devastating earthquake off the coast of Japan.

"We didn't have a clue," Hank said.

At 1:15 a.m., Nancy's cell phone rang. It was a friend who lives in Cannon Beach, warning them a tsunami was headed toward the West Coast and was expected to reach land about 7 a.m.

The friend offered to put them up for the rest of the night so they packed up their belongings. But they weren't out the door until 3:30 a.m., and they didn't want to inconvenience their friend at that point so they found a parking lot above Highway 101 and fell asleep in their Honda CRV.

"It's very comfortable for sleeping, by the way," Hank said with a chuckle.

They awoke at 6:30 a.m. and headed to Arcadia Beach State Park, which was high above the beach and had a nice bathroom.

"Everyone was lining up along the highway waiting for the tsunami," Hank said. "So we parked there."

When it arrived, he said the ocean pulled back from the beach a couple of times -- he estimated he could have walked out 500 yards or more -- then the water gradually came back in with no big waves.

By 10 a.m. they were hungry, and because the entire town of Cannon Beach had been evacuated and sealed off, they drove north to Seaside and found it also mostly abandoned.

By the time they ate and drove back, Cannon Beach was open.

The couple were concerned that few would show up for their wine education seminar that evening because of the tsunami. In fact, just the opposite happened. The event was overflowing.

"Even though there was a tsunami evacuation, it didn't stop anyone," Hank said. "Apparently, a tsunami won't keep anyone from drinking wine on the Oregon coast."

He said he always takes the "tsunami evacuation route" signs seriously on the Oregon coast because he has vivid memories of the tsunami that struck the region in 1964.

"The signs are not up there for fun," he said.

* Andy Perdue is editor of Wine Press Northwest. Reach him at 509-582-1405 or editor@winepressnw.com.