So, last night we were sitting in one of our favorite San Juan del Sur watering holes when we saw on the TV that Chile had experienced a massive earthquake and there were tsunami warnings in place for several South American countries. We didn’t think much about it — we are a long way from Chile after all. (OK, OK, so it turns out Robert thought quite a bit about it…he just didn’t share his thoughts with me…)
Then, when we had moved on to a different watering hole, we started hearing sirens. You know, like the kind that go off in the U.S. when there is a tornado warning. We checked our watches. Nope, it wasn’t on the hour, so it was unlikely to be a test of the emergency broadcast system. We looked around to see what the locals were doing. Nothing — in fact, a security guard was lounging on the sidewalk. So, we waited. The sirens kept going off. So, we asked our friendly bartenders if we should be concerned. They didn’t speak any English, but it was clear that they weren’t worried. Robert was able to ask in Spanish if there was any danger and they said no. OK, let’s order another round…
Then, a truck came driving down the street. Here in Nicaragua, much of the advertising is done via loudspeakers that are on top of a car or in the back of a pick-up. In this case, the loudspeakers were blaring and we couldn’t make out any of the Spanish. But you know what? Tsunami in Spanish sounds just like tsunami in English and we could make that word out. Now, people started getting worried. Locals were starting to pull down shutters and get out of dodge. Robert went out on the street to gather information and found that the tourists had all been told to get off the beach and climb a nearby hill. At the same time, a local who spoke English came into the bar and told me it was time to leave.
So up the hill we went (after finishing our drinks, of course). Turns out, there is a very upscale hotel on top of the biggest hill here. They apparently have a deal with the town that, if there is a real emergency, they will open their gates and let everyone up. So, we milled about the gates for awhile. Suddenly, the gates went up. Oh oh. Not good. So further up the hill we went. And milled around some more.
Turns out, it was much ado about nothing. A tsunami warning had been issued for Nicaragua, but it was downgraded pretty quickly. And, the waves were only scheduled to be about a foot higher than high tide.
Oh well, better safe than sorry.