Ice forms at the small boat harbor in Haines. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)
The small boat harbor in Haines. The community is scheduled to get its first tsunami siren in 2024. A tsunami in the Lynn Canal could be catastrophic and during the last scare in 2018, police officers had to go door-to-door to warn people. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

Haines will have its first official tsunami siren later this summer if all goes to plan. The state recently closed bids for the installation of a siren this summer as part of the U.S. Tsunami Warning System. 

A tsunami near Haines could have catastrophic effects on the community. A landslide in the Lynn Canal could generate a wave more than 50 feet, based on a 2018 report from the state’s Division of Geology and Geophysical Surveys. That could generate significant damage at the harbor, coastal roads, and other low-lying buildings. 

During the last tsunami scare in January of 2018, Haines evacuated its residents by sending officers  door-to-door and having the police chief drive through the community with a bullhorn. 

The new warning system would have a sound that is distinct from an alarm system currently installed at the public safety building, according to Haines fire chief Brian Clay. It would also have the ability to give voice commands, instructing people to head for higher ground. 

Generally it’s a large pole with 4-5 donut-shaped sirens around it,” said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesperson for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The state regularly installs sirens in coastal communities based on risks and other factors, said Zidek. 

In 2022, Haines sought bids for a siren installation with a $61,000 grant, but the bids came in nearly double that amount. The borough decided to consolidate efforts with the state, borough manager Annette Kreitzer wrote in an email. 

The borough is also working to publish inundation zones and evacuation routes as well, but that work got pushed off until after July 1. 

“The State was wanting to get it done this fiscal year, but with the inundation zone that the State is proposing likely to impact property owners, zoning and permitting, I decided it needed more public vetting,” said Kreitzer.