Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sonic Magic - The Science of Sound

Source: The Science of Sound – The Nature of Things: Science, Wildlife and Technology – CBC-TV

How do you make a television documentary about something you can’t see? Well, you need a little magic. In this case “Sonic Magic,” which is the title of our latest production airing tonight at 8pm on CBC’s “The Nature of Things with David Suzuki.”

It’s not just a rant about noise, it’s a visual feast of sonic wonders – such as the fact that sound can be used to destroy cancer cells, to restore lost memory, and to make a blind man to see. Wait till you see Daniel Kish who’s been blind since early childhood ride a bicycle through an obstacle course. He makes clicking sounds much like a bat does to create visual images that allow him to navigate freely through the world. He actually sees with sound – what he calls Flash Sonar – and it truly is impressive.

But there’s more. There’s a new scientific instrument called a cymascope that translates sound waves into 3D geometric patterns – a different pattern for every note on the scale – some of which resemble early forms of life. Is this a stunning coincidence or a new way to study and think about biology? See for yourself.

Sound designer Ewan Deane rolls back the clock by recreating the rich soundscape of Vancouver city streets in 1906 – a time when noise levels were tolerable and when the bells of Holy Rosary Cathedral could be heard for 40 blocks. Now these bells are all but lost in the din of urban traffic.

Music composer and saxophone artist Dan Seguin plays melodic riffs on a concert stage to help illustrate how acoustic engineers make a performance hall sound great.

As you can probably tell, I found this a really enjoyable and fascinating film to make. Many thanks to our production team – producers Terry McKeown and Bette Thompson; cinematographer Jeff Morales and sound recordist Jeff Henschel; editor Allan Pinvidic and the crew at Finale Editworks; Ian Kirby, Dan Sioui, Vanessa Marshall and the team of animators and CGI wizards at The Sequence Group; archivists Elspeth Domville and Colin Preston, Composer Dan Seguin and Sound Designer Ewan Deane – for making it all come together so nicely.

Hope you all enjoy a bit of “Sonic Magic.” Apologies to those of you outside of Canada who don’t have access to the CBC.

Sonic Magic - The Science of Sound

Sunday, June 21, 2015

San Andreas - not the quake that terrifies

san_andreasSan Andreas – the schadenfreude movie

Okay, I admit it – I got bored the other night and wasted ten bucks on the entirely predictable disaster flick, “San Andreas.” I knew deep down that it would be what it was—pure Hollywood crap, a cartoon hero movie with an obscene budget.

But as a guy who has written a fair bit about earthquakes, I wanted to see what they were going to do with a $100-million-plus dollars’ worth of computer animation. Short answer: they crumbled Hoover Dam, leveled the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and washed away the Golden Gate Bridge. The destruction was mostly sanitized (they were going for “holy shit” and “awesome,” not blood, guts and empathy) but extremely realistic otherwise.

I could just hear all those folks who love to hate California cheering loudly—or at the very least smirking—from the balcony. The movie made $53.2 million its opening weekend and was number one at the box-office. Somebody must have liked it.

The science, of course, was dead wrong. Ludicrous, one critic called it. The San Andreas will never rupture from end-to-end, never hit L.A. and San Francisco at the same time. It cannot produce a magnitude-9+ earthquake. San Andreas will not crumble the Hoover Dam. It will not cause a tsunami that rips out the Golden Gate. It just won’t. Ask any reputable scientist.

Given how much the residents of California already know about real quakes, I wondered why the filmmakers would go so far over the top. I mean, a little “creative license” is one thing, but this was beyond stupid and surely most people with an IQ north of 5 would know it. Then it occurred to me: they wanted a magnitude-9 quake in North America; they wanted wholesale, multi-city destruction—but the West Coast fault that really will cause this kind of disaster is virtually unknown. The bigger, more destructive fault is simply not famous enough.

I can hear the producer’s pitch: “This will be a movie about a quake like the one in Japan. That thing ripped for hundreds of miles along the coast. Did you see the tsunami? Awesome, right? So we want to do that with Americans…”

Fine. It just so happens there is a fault off the West Coast (the Cascadia Subduction Zone) that will do to North America exactly what happened to Japan. Magnitude-9 or higher plus a horrible tsunami. But the cities that get wrecked (Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver) are just not as sexy as L.A. and San Francisco. So Hollywood took the Cascadia scenario (it can and will rip from end-to-end, all at once, from northern California to the middle of Vancouver Island) and applied it to the lower half of California.

Sure, the visual effect was riveting. It was also disappointing. Because a tentpole movie with such a lavish budget could possibly have motivated a few more folks to do what needs doing. I know, I know–that wasn’t the point. The point was to sell popcorn.

The larger truth is that when the Cascadia quake does happen, we’re not all going to die. The vast majority of us who live within striking distance will survive the jolt. The crucial question is how well we endure the aftermath. And that depends entirely on what we do now to get ready for it. (Yes, I’ve said this a thousand times, but it bears repeating…)

A news item this past week confirmed (what many already knew) that the two busiest hospital emergency rooms in metropolitan Vancouver will likely collapse when Cascadia ruptures. What’s it gonna take for politicians to treat this threat seriously?

“San Andreas” was a missed opportunity. As one of my geologist contacts told me— “Too bad it’s so overblown. Lots of people might think that’s what the next earthquake will be like. And then think it’s so apocalyptic that’s its useless to take any action. So, I see it as very counterproductive.”

Go to and search “San Andreas.” You’ll see an interesting little video about the California quake that “really terrifies scientists.”

Here’s the headline:

Forget about the San Andreas Fault. The West Coast needs to worry about something else entirely VIDEO

Source: “That’s a big fault”: The terrifying 9-magnitude California earthquake which really terrifies scientists


San Andreas - not the quake that terrifies

Saturday, June 20, 2015

My Own Lou Grant

Ron Haggert at The Toronto Star

Ron Haggert – a real Lou Grant

If you’re too young to remember who Lou Grant was, you might want to skip the rest of this post. It’s a story about one of my mentors at CBC and you’d have to know the significance of who “Lou” was (in the journalism culture of the late 1970s) for the story to have meaning. If you’ve temporarily forgotten, allow me to refresh your nostalgia.

Lou Grant (played by actor Ed Asner) was the curmudgeonly boss of a fictional television newsroom at the heart of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, a long-running hit comedy in the 1970s. When the series ended all the staff (except for Ted Baxter, the infamously air-headed anchorman) were fired. The next season, the Asner character resurfaced in a new series called Lou Grant – the significant difference being that LG was not a comedy but instead dared to tackle serious social and political issues in the post-Watergate era of American turmoil. In the aftermath of All the President’s Men (1976), Lou Grant won awards and was at the time (1977-1982) considered a rarity in episodic television—part of the shift to more serious, issue-oriented dramas.

Broke and disgusted Lou returns to his print roots as city editor of the fictional Los Angeles Tribune. School violence, immigration, gay rights, nuclear terrorism, chemical pollution, and the post-traumatic stress of returning Vietnam vets are among the issues that keep his two youngest reporters (Rossi and Billie, the Trib’s answer to Woodward and Bernstein) busy, energized and often conflicted. As their boss and mentor, Lou guides them through the learning curves and deep canyons between idealism, reality, and cynicism that all young journalists must navigate.

At times both irascible and avuncular, Lou is the heart and soul of the newsroom, the editorial conscience, the experienced elder hand with ink in his veins, a warm heart, and an active mind. He’s seen a lot and knows from long experience that nothing is ever as simple or obvious as it seems. Back in the day nearly all major newspapers (and even a precious few television news organizations) had at least one Lou Grant on staff.

More than a few working journalists secretly loved the show and some who arrived later would admit that Lou was the one who inspired them to join both the profession and the crusade. These are the ones who understood that journalism is not just a business, it’s a calling. Thousands of young idealists imagined that working for a real Lou Grant would be something akin to nirvana. And they weren’t wrong.

My own Lou Grant was a fellow by the name of Ron Haggart. Ron was senior editor of a CBC program called ‘the fifth estate,’ Canada’s equivalent to 60 Minutes in the U.S. From the start it was a tough-minded and very demanding workplace, primarily because of the high standards of accuracy, clarity, fairness and proof that Ron Haggart enforced.

It was my first network job and I was a keener to say the least. In my four previous newsroom gigs I’d never had the opportunity to dig so deeply, to research and debate the merits of a story before we tackled it. The sad truth is that most daily news operations are a chaotic and frequently desperate dash to meet a deadline. Reporters and editors scramble madly through the day hoping they’ll get something on the air or in the paper before their time runs out. But a documentary proposal at ‘the fifth estate’ was like the first draft of a book. And Ron Haggart would debate you point-by-point until he satisfied himself that you knew enough to be trusted with the story.

Here is one of my favourite examples:

In 1979, shortly after I’d been hired, Ron called me into his office to lay down the ground rules about my proposal to capture a “midnight dumper” in action — one of those black-hearted villains who pours toxic chemicals down sewer grates and storm drains. Ron wanted me to know the conditions under which he might approve the story.

First, he wanted me to find answers to a series of questions, the most obvious of which was: did we in Canada have legal toxic waste disposal facilities to which these midnight dumpers could and should be delivering their dirty goods? If not, then what were “good” corporate citizens doing to cope with this dilemma? Tell me, he urged, about people who make things we all need and use and who thereby create toxic waste products — on our behalf. What are they doing in our name?

What a bizarre approach, I thought. I just wanted to nail the “bad guys” and expose them on national televison.

Off I went to make my inquiries only to learn next morning that Ron already knew the answers. He was testing me, putting me through hoops to make sure I’d considered all the possibilities. Turns out that we did not, at that time, have any legal toxic waste dumps in Canada. Furthermore, the United States (which did have several such facilities) had just cut off Canada’s access to the largest of these sites and was telling us to solve our toxic waste problem at home, not in someone else’s backyard.

But before allowing me to start filming, Ron had one more important thing to tell me. “Okay, Jerry, you can do this piece. But here’s what you’re not going to say: you are not going to film a story that tells me, ‘Pollution is bad.’ That’s too simplistic, it’s too obvious, and it would insult the intelligence of our viewers.”

As his many protégés soon learned, the journalistic gospel according to Ron was this: the truth is never simple; nobody has a monopoly on virtue; and “context is everything.”

“Instead of saying pollution is bad, you are going to do a story that says: ‘Pity the poor polluter — what’s a fella to do?’” If we as a nation have provided no toxic waste dumps of our own, then where are we going to put this crap? We’ve all had a hand in generating it, so it’s our problem to solve. Not just the guy who drives the tank truck.

So off we went. A cameraman and I slithered on our bellies through a cattail marsh and captured a toxic dumper on film. He was pouring untreatable chemical sludge into a sandy ditch beside the Fraser River because there was no legal place to get rid of it. He and others like him were doing this on a routine basis every day, out of public view and unknown to the citizens of Vancouver — until we caught him in the act.

But the best chapter of the story — a result of Ron’s contrarian approach — was about a guy on the east side who ran a makeshift refinery to recycle used motor oil. A good guy at heart, he’s doing society a favour, until he learns that the leftover sludge from his recycling process is still considered toxic — unacceptable at any landfill in Canada.

Well, this guy buys an old dough mixer from a defunct bakery to blend baking soda with oil sludge in an effort to render the stuff chemically inert and thereby legally allowable at the Burns Bog landfill. It was an unorthodox approach to a serious and growing problem, the very oddness of it serving to highlight the difficulty of disposing with the detritus of modern life.

Ron’s lesson for me was as obvious as it was overlooked in my youthful zeal: there is no sense preaching to the converted. Sure, midnight dumping is bad and the people doing it should be exposed and held accountable along with the gutless politicians whose procrastination and avoidance of the issue of proper toxic waste facilities created the bottleneck that was secretly broken that afternoon beside the Fraser River.

“Go ahead, Jerry. Catch the dumpers and prove the point. But don’t tell me pollution is bad.” And don’t blame it all on the guy in the truck.

For me, a young journalist still learning the trade, Ron Haggart really was Lou Grant. Sadly, there are damned few like him left and our society is the worse for it. Every young writer, reporter and television producer should have a mentor of the calibre of Ron Haggart. We all should have the opportunity to work at the feet of the masters before being turned loose on the public.

I did have that opportunity and it altered my approach to storytelling. I am eternally grateful for the education and guidance I got from my Lou Grant.

My Own Lou Grant

Friday, September 2, 2011

Megaquake: It's not if but when

Journalist Thompson presents clear picture of coming disaster and urges greater preparedness

By JACQUELINE WINDH   The Vancouver Sun     August 4, 2011

 Journalist and documentary filmmaker Jerry Thompson has been chasing the story of the Cascadia subduction zone, which lies off North America’s West Coast, and the possibility of a “megathrust” earthquake, for 30 years. In the introduction to Cascadia’s Fault, he notes that “scientists, civil engineers, and emergency planners know with certainty that it’s bound to happen here, but they’re having a devil of a time getting anyone to pay attention. This book, I hope, will change that.”

Cascadia’s Fault was going to press just as the magnitude 9 Tohoku Earthquake rocked Japan this March, sending a series of tsunami waves to Cascadia’s shores.

By the time those waves reached North America, much of their power had been sapped. Nevertheless, they caused damages estimated at over $50 million to coastal towns in California and Oregon, and killed one man. Although Canadian coastlines were spared any significant damages, local residents of towns such as Ucluelet, Tofino and Port Alberni reported strong currents and rapid sea-level fluctuations of a metre or more.

While this timing may seem bad luck for author Thompson, for it makes his detailed compendium and analysis of most of the planet’s recent large quakes instantly out-of-date, it is also fortuitous. If Thompson’s aim with this book was to draw attention to the risk of a large subduction-associated megaquake here in North America, the comparison of our situation with Japan’s can only help that.

Geologically, the Japanese scenario is a mirror-image of our geological setting here: a sometimes-locked subduction zone, where the Pacific tectonic plate moves in fits and starts beneath the thicker continental plate. Socially, the Japanese scenario is analogous to our own as well — directly above those subducting plates are modern cities sprinkled with mammoth structures of concrete and metal: highrises, industrial facilities, and highway overpasses.

The Cascadia subduction zone is an active fault that is 1,300 kilometres in length, extending from Northern California to northern Vancouver Island. When it finally slips — which could be in 200 years or it could be tonight — the destruction will be analogous to what happened in Japan, devastating a region 200 kilometres wide along the entire length of the fault, including the cities of Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Portland and Sacramento.

Although it is a valuable compendium of information, as a text the book suffers somewhat in its structure. Part detective story, part memoir and part popular science, the narrative is crafted as a thriller. The detective story — investigating whether the Cascadia subduction zone has the potential to generate magnitude 9 megaquakes — takes up the bulk of the text. Chapters flit around in time, jumping from the 1980s to the 1960s to the 2000s: describing other megaquakes that have occurred around the planet and assembling evidence from various scientific studies.

But a thriller loses much of its punch when we already know the answer to the mystery (in the text, the revelation that Cascadia’s fault is probably not harmless comes on page 204). And the memoir aspects of the story, chronicling the author’s interest in the subject, and his travels and interviews over the decades, come so few and far between that the jump to the first person can be jarring.

But Thompson excels when he explains the science. His methodical chronicling tells how each piece of the puzzle was uncovered — from investigations of cedar forests killed by saltwater flooding in Washington state, to GPS arrays that reveal the slow but steady compression of mountain ranges on Vancouver Island. Thompson presents the data that, together, provide a clear picture of the scale and magnitude of Cascadia’s coming earthquake and tsunami.

Whereas most of the book is devoted to piecing together the geological evidence, its final quarter addresses emergency planning. And this is a call for us to examine, especially here in Canada, what we are doing to prepare for it.

While American states, particularly California and Oregon, have detailed disaster plans and public awareness programs, British Columbia lags behind. Canada has no National Guard, and most of our active army units are either stationed east of the Rockies or deployed overseas. Damage to infrastructure: roads and railways and bridges, along with the potential scale of this disaster — how many communities will be affected — will cause delays of days or even weeks for rescue crews trying to provide assistance.

Thompson does a fine job of assembling the information about this coming event, literally presenting it on a platter to anyone who will listen. But, as one of the scientists he quotes says, “What the emergency response people do with that — it’s up to them.”

Jacqueline Windh is an author and photographer who holds a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences. She is based on Vancouver Island.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Review of Cascadia's Fault

by Dan McShane -- an engineering geologist with Stratum Group, a geology and environmental consulting company based in Bellingham, Washington.

Excerpt from the review:

The challenge of reviewing this book is trying to do the book proper justice. I am not sure I can meet the same standard of good writing, good journalism and good science that Mr. Thompson did so well.

I am a geologist; I am way into tectonics; I even made what I would describe as a pilgrimage to see the ghost forest at the Copalis River that was part of the compelling body of evidence that built the case for a great quake on the coast of Washington. As such, some of this book provided the simple pleasure of reading a very well written perspective on the familiar; however, Cascadia's Fault included ideas and stories and perspectives on the subject that were new to me...

The book tells the story of how geologists unraveled the clues about the great quake. It is a great story of how science gets done and how observations and ideas build on one another. I remember the debates about whether or not the Cascadia subduction zone was asiesmic or locked and dangerous and how that question was resolved. But the book adds many facets of the story I did not know and puts into context the early days of plate tectonics figuring out seismicity along subduction zone faults and how those early day ideas evolved how we think about the Cascadia fault. The book reads like a very good mystery novel building the clues one on another, but without the typical overblown hype that often passes as science writing...

For the full review, visit:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cascadia's Fault review on Highly Allochtonous

Excerpt from the review:

If you don’t know much about the risk posed by Cascadia, then you are not alone; indeed, for a long time even geologists were in the dark. The story of how they slowly uncovered the danger signs is the focus of journalist Jerry Thompson’s excellent new book, Cascadia’s Fault, a creditable attempt to raise awareness beyond geoscientists and emergency planners who have, as he puts it in his introduction, been “having a devil of a time getting anyone to pay attention.”

For the full article visit:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Excerpt from Cascadia's Fault on the Nervous Breakdown


On Christmas Eve 2004 my wife, Bette, and I were in a hotel bar in San Francisco dreaming up plot points for a film we’d like to shoot some day when a woman arrived from the airport with breathless news. The bartender clicked his remote and It’s a Wonderful Life vanished, Jimmy Stewart’s smiling face wiped off the screen by a mountain of angry seawater. I can still see those endlessly repeated loops of amateur video shot from the balconies of beachfront resorts in Sumatra and Thailand, relayed by satellite to every TV receiver on the planet.

The first horrifying, mesmerizing wave crashed against a seawall, jetting skyward in salty white torrents, tearing through a fringe of palm trees like a monsoon river, across a hotel pool deck and a manicured square of green lawn. The darkening surge roared uphill through narrow, cluttered streets choked with tourist luggage, broken timbers, small motorcycles with their riders struggling to stay vertical, cargo vans overturned and bulldozed by white froth into market stalls. A transit bus floating on its side began to sink as desperate passengers jumped from the slippery roof.
It’s impossible to forget the images, those flailing human bodies—especially one unfortunate older man clinging to the outside railing of a rapidly filling parkade. Exhausted and in shock, he finally let go. We watched as he sank into the muddy torrent and was swept away.

More than 230,000 people in fourteen countries around the Indian Ocean died or disappeared, many of them before our eyes, and there was nothing any of us could do.  Everything not nailed to the ground was torn loose and carried off by the roaring water. And there was more to come. Even after the first water had cut a swath nearly a mile inland and then sucked itself halfway out to sea again, full of death and floating debris, people standing among the palms were so stunned by the spectacle they waited too long to outrun the next wave.

For the full excerpt, visit:

Jerry Thompson: The TNB Self-Interview

Excerpt from the interview:

But seriously now, aren’t you just trying to scare the hell out of everybody?

Actually, I’m not. Because I think kneejerk alarmism is a complete waste of time and energy. The truth is – we’re not all gonna die. The vast majority of us will survive the quake. Cities and towns will be wrecked to some degree and the tsunami waves will kill some of us – but only a few compared to the overall population.

The last number I heard was that something like 28,000 people in Japan had been killed or were missing. Which is a terrible number, no getting around it. But there were millions more in that region who survived. In the days ahead I expect you’ll start to hear stories of how some of those folks managed to stay alive – there will be stories of miraculous heroism and ingenuity. The Japanese knew something like this would happen eventually and they were probably the most organized and prepared people in the world. But right now, we in North America are nowhere near that prepared.

So what really matters now is how well all of us survivors endure the aftermath. And that depends entirely on how much effort and energy we invest in getting ourselves ready for the inevitable.
But here’s some good news: survival skills can be learned. Education will help, so go out there and get some. Take a first aid course. Join your local emergency preparedness group. Make sure your local and national politicians don’t ignore the long list of things that need to be done right here at home.
Here’s some more good news: resilience is a state of mind and a multi-purpose tool. Whatever you teach yourself about surviving a quake will work just as well if you’re facing a forest fire, a flooding river, a hurricane or a terrorist attack.

If you think back to how the richest, most powerful, most technologically advanced nation on the planet responded to Hurricane Katrina, then just imagine what it’s gonna be like when five cities get hit with a Katrina-size disaster on the same day. The shockwaves from a magnitude 9 quake on Cascadia’s fault will reach from Sacramento to Portland to Seattle to Victoria and Vancouver in Canada. All at the same moment.

So there won’t be any government agency or white knight riding over the hill to the rescue. People are going to be on their own for days if not weeks. And that’s why now’s the time to snap out of the trance and start making your own plans for survival. Because nobody else is going to do it for you.

To read the full article, visit:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rhod Sharp interviews Jerry Thompson on BBC Radio 5

Listen to the audio file from the interview:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This Political Earthquake Is Inevitable

"Jerry Thompson, a longtime journalist, doesn't say much if anything about politics in his new book. But the political implications of his book, for Canada and the United States, are inescapable."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Booknews Review of Cascadia's Fault

Excerpt from Print Article:

"Thompson, a journalist and documentary film producer, presents this frightening look at the Cascadia subduction zone and the risk it poses to major American West coast cities through powerful earthquakes and devastating tsunami waves. Drawing from current seismology research and the effects of recent massive quakes in Chile, Sumatra and Japan, the work outlines the risks to this seemingly quiet section of the "Ring of Fire" and advocates for better disaster preparedness as the only way to survive the inevitable disaster to come."

Shaken and Stirred: Book review of Cascadia's Fault in Sacramento News Review

Monday, May 16, 2011

Booklist Review of Cascadia's Fault

Excerpt from May issue of Booklist:

"Despite its fear-mongering subtitle, this is a level-headed look at a potentially devastating natural disaster. Prompted by a massive earthquake in 1985 that caused widespread destruction in Mexico City, Canadian television journalist Thompson began researching a potential disaster zone much closer to home: the Cascadia Subduction Zone (once known as the Juan de Fuca plate), an 800-mile fault under the Pacific Ocean that, some experts say, has a 70 percent chance of producing a massive earthquake off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. This fascinating book explores the Cascadia Subduction Zone and the research surrounding it, while, at the same time, offering readers a broader picture: the story of earthquake science and the researchers who, even today, are making new discoveries that could help predict (if not actually prevent) major earthquakes before they happen. The book is tailored for readers interested in weather science, and it is not written in the liveliest of styles; still, given recent events in Japan, a thoughtful, serious book on the subject of earthquakes in the Pacific should be most welcome."
— David Pitt

Friday, May 13, 2011

Agency workers prepare citizens for looming Oregon earthquake

Excerpt from article:

"Being prepared for an event like this is not that difficult because you're going to survive the earthquake," he said. "But, you better have an emergency plan in place, an emergency kit, put aside some food and water, talk to your family about how you're going to reunite and communicate if you're separated. These are the things you have to think about with an event like this and you have to think about them before it happens."

In the event of an earthquake, Roddey said the best method of protection is to drop down to the floor, take cover under a sturdy object and hold on until the shaking stops. He said it's also best to walk to higher ground and inland when a tsunami hits and resist the temptation of standing on the coast to watch the sudden rise and fall of the tide the sea level.

"It's how well we prepare that determines the quality of life we have after these great events," he said. "If we prepare, then we're not a victim."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Earthquakes and Tsunamis 101 - When at the beach...

[Excerpt from Cascadia's Fault] Bottom line: if you’re on a beach and the ground starts shaking—and especially if that shaking lasts more than one minute—it’s probably a subduction earthquake and there probably will be a tsunami. The shaking is all the warning you’re going to get. Head for higher ground immediately and don’t wait for any official notification.