LONG BEACH — After the shaking stops, Peninsula residents will have roughly 15 to 20 minutes to reach higher ground in the event near-shore Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.
This sobering reality was reminded to about 50 attendees Tuesday, April 9 at the Chatauqua Lodge in Long Beach, where tsunami and earthquake experts gave presentations and led discussions on tsunami vertical-evacuation structures, potential earthquake early-warning systems and survival strategies during an event nicknamed the “Tsunami Roadshow,” now in its third year.
Officials from the Washington Emergency Management Division were joined by the Washington Geological Survey, the National Weather Service, Sea Grant Washington and local emergency management officials for a 90-minute presentation.
Coastal residents urged to prepare
A Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake will be devastating to the Pacific Northwest, and experts are urging vulnerable coastal residents to make emergency evacuation plans and preparations now.
“The earthquake may last five minutes,” said Carrie Garrison-Lane, coastal hazards specialist for Washington Sea Grant. “You’ll have to drop, cover and hold for five minutes, then gather your bearings, get your shoes on and get out of your house. I don’t want to be fatalistic, but it’s important to recognize this is the situation we have — there isn’t a lot of time.”
Recent time-lapse simulations reveal how a tsunami would race across the open ocean at 500 mph before slowing in speed and growing in height as it approached the shallower shore, coming in successive waves and possibly lasting for several hours, depending on the size and location of the quake.
A common misconception is the first wave is the most deadly.
“The first wave isn’t always the biggest,” said Corina Forson, chief hazards geologist for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, adding that it’s critical for people to continue to seek higher ground and then stay there as the tsunami system comes ashore. “There will be strong waves and currents for many hours.”
Tyree Wilde, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, spoke about different tsunami-warning systems, how they work and the importance of having a weather radio.
“A weather radio is like a smoke alarm for natural disasters,” Wilde said.
Pacific County Emergency Management Agency Director Scott McDougall stressed the importance of signing up for local alerts, which could be especially critical for those outside the range of the tsunami siren.
“The goal this year is to make sure as many people know and understand what tsunami alerts are, how to receive them and what to do to survive a tsunami,” McDougall said.
Maximilian Dixon, hazards and outreach supervisor for the Washington Emergency Management Division, talked about emergency preparedness, including learning evacuation routes, family emergency planning and “go bags” filled with immediate survival supplies. Dixon said residents should prepare two weeks’ worth of emergency supplies at home and have smaller go bags in vehicles and at work.
“Plan to be on your own for a long time, because bridges will be down and shallow landslides will cut off roads,” Dixon said. “The tsunami is going to come in and wipe out a lot of things. You and your communities will be isolated and depending on each other.”
Nearly all in attendance indicated they have weather radios at home, most said they signed up for local alerts, but far fewer have actually practiced a planned evacuation route.
To sign up to receive alerts through the Pacific County Emergency Management, visit www.pacificcountysheriff.com/emergency-notification-system.