Saturday, November 29, 2008

'TSUNAMI HAZARD ZONE' signs spoil beach experience along the Pacific Coast Highway

Somebody's found a new way to spoil the Southern California beach experience. One of the kids began pointing it out this week while we were driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica towards Malibu. But we didn't get a good look until yesterday, walking down Temescal Canyon Road in Pacific Palisades toward the PCH, headed to Will Rogers State Beach.

There's a new sign posted at the intersection:


And on the other side of the street, leading up the hill, a companion sign:


TSUNAMI HAZARD ZONE? Now there's a good idea! Not RECREATION ZONE or BEACH VOLLEYBALL ZONE, but something sure to send a chill down the spine. And it was certainly good enough to scare the kids who were old enough to read, filling them with worry and dread as they stood on the wide expanse of beach and looked out toward the ocean.

The signs are at every access road to the PCH from Santa Monica at least to Malibu and most likely farther along than that.

That's a lot of signs, and we've got to figure the expenditure was less likely the work of some politically-correct do-gooder inspired by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 (the natural disaster most Americans wouldn't have blinked at, had not a vacationing Western supermodel lost her boyfriend in the waters) than some politician who took advantage of the publicity and projections to slide this pork expenditure to a campaign-contributing sign company.

The "LEAVING TSUNAMI HAZARD ZONE" is what gives away the game. It's one thing to post reminders for those approaching the beach. But is it really necessary to find an arbitrary point, a few dozen yards from the PCH, to post a sign to assure the hapless beachgoer, running from the approaching tide, that he's safe? Is that really the boundary of the TSUNAMI HAZARD ZONE? What if the person fleeing a tsunami sees the sign, stops running, and is sucked into the surf?

Which leads to other questions: Do government officials know something they're not telling us? Is an earthquake, Pacific Ocean anomaly or ice shelf phenomenon expected to cause a tsunami in the near future? Have the signs been posted to help combat lawsuits from victims and survivors?

No, the real question is why the bureaucrats needed to find another way make people afraid even when they're trying to forget their cares for a couple of hours. Most people headed toward the shores of a great ocean would assume the hazards of big waves, rocks, riptides, sharks, sharp objects in the sand, too much sun, and the sight of fat people on bikinis. That's a lot of signs.

Thanks for ruining it for the kids.

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