Wednesday, September 28, 2011

[californiadisasters] Warning Systems Minimize Tsunami Casualties

Warning Systems Minimize Tsunami Casualties

Tsunamis, especially large ones, frequently cause massive destruction and loss of life. Devastation from the March 2011 Japanese earthquake paled in comparison to that from the subsequent tsunami, although warnings saved many lives. Accurate warnings and effective preparedness are the best tools to minimize tsunami casualties. In the United States, the West Coast, Hawaii, and Alaska are the most vulnerable areas. Are we ready?

Rapid data analysis from seismometers around the globe can determine earthquake magnitude (size) and location. Large, shallow undersea quakes are the most likely to generate tsunamis. Once such an event is detected, tsunami warnings are immediately issued for nearby coastal areas. Tsunamis can propagate for thousands of miles across the open ocean, arriving hours after the earthquake. Therefore, distant locations are put on alert while further data analysis and modeling are performed. A network of more than 50
buoys operates across the planet, with most in the Pacific Ocean. These buoys measure actual wave heights, allowing greater accuracy in predicting the size and timing of tsunamis at landfall.

To avoid danger, be aware if you are in a potential tsunami impact zone, and if so, what you can do to escape. If warned of impending danger, act quickly. Many vulnerable areas
have sirens, notification procedures, and evacuation routes for times when a warning is issued. Very large quakes and tsunamis similar to those in Japan in 2011 and in Indonesia in 2004 have occurred on the Cascadia fault zone that extends from offshore to underneath the U.S. Pacific Northwest Coast, most recently in A.D. 1700. When (not if) such an event occurs again, huge tsunamis will arrive in less than 30 minutes. Buildings, roadways, and bridges may be damaged by the quake, making automobile escape difficult or
impossible. What then? Another option is vertical evacuation. Head for the nearest hill that is at least 35 feet above sea level, on foot if necessary. If you can not reach a hill, find a sturdy building that is at least three stories high, and climb to at least the third story. Knowing what to do may save your life.


Web links for additional information:
• Western States Seismic Policy Council (WSSPC):
• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA):
• West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center:
• Pacific Tsunami Warning Center:

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