Mar 22

Tsunami in Japan

Posted by Brian Barnes under topic Articles, Off Chase

I never thought I would be running from a tsunami in Japan, but that happened. As most know by now, I do a lot of volunteer work in ocean activism when I’m not storm chasing in Tornado Alley. Most of my volunteerism involves working with the Dolphin Project to protect wild dolphins around the globe.

I was in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, Japan on March 11th, 2011 monitoring the slaughter of Dall’s porpoises and standing just a few feet from the water on a man-made pier in the middle of Otsuchi harbor when the M9.0 earthquake hit.

I’m not going to go into detail on my personal blog about the events that followed.  I usually keep my activism and storm chasing separated and will continue to do so. However, a lot of people have inquired about my well being and I want to let them know that I’m alive and fine. I and a team of volunteers escaped certain death by mere minutes and with a little luck, we survived.

Tsunami in Japan, March 11, 2011. Photo by Brian Barnes
Otsuchi Harbor During the Tsunami in Japan © Brian Barnes

We were able to seek vertical shelter from a hillside overlooking Otsuchi Harbor. All we could do was watch the horror unfold as the tsunami destroyed everything around us. The first buildings fell during the earthquake, which lasted for about five minutes. 20-minutes later, the tsunami destroyed most other buildings. Gas lines ruptured and anything still left standing burned to the ground.

Obviously, as a storm chaser, I’m not new to natural disasters. I’ve seen a lot of things over the years that I wish I hadn’t.  However, this tsunami event is like nothing the ordinary mind could even imagine. This event has changed my life without a doubt.  I’m currently working with the Dolphin Project Team to assist in any way possible for the town’s relief efforts.

My thoughts are with the people of Otsuchi, and elsewhere that was ravaged by this event.  For more information and to stay up-to-date, please visit

Domo Arigato,