OCEAN PARK - With a deadly subduction-zone tsunami in Chile still very much on everyone's minds, about 40 civil authorities and local residents met at the Ocean Park Fire Hall on April 22 to explore safe haven opportunities on the north half of the Peninsula.
The meeting stemmed from a report from the Department of Urban Design and Planning of the University of Washington. Graduate students present were Amanda Engstfeld, Katherine Killebrew, Christopher Scott and Jeana Wiser backed by faculty members Bob Freitag and Omar El-Anwar. From January to March, graduate students and faculty worked with state and local officials, hazard experts and community members to develop vertical evacuation strategies for the Peninsula, with a focus on community input and ideas. The purpose is to develop ways for residents and visitors to move upwards to safety rather than try to evacuate off the Peninsula or to our limited higher ground.
The meeting was opened by Stephanie Fritts, Pacific County Emergency Management director, citing the need for community input regarding berms, structures and towers that can be constructed on high ground to provide "safe havens" for residents to escape tsunami devastation. (A berm is a mound or bank of earth built to provide protection.)
Each of the three table layouts was covered with 6-foot maps depicting the Peninsula's exposed shoreline, the high ground available for evacuation, the penetration of water from different sized tsunamis and props to be used for representing berms, structures and towers. These tables were used later in the meeting for rotating round-table discussions.
Tim Walsh, chief hazards geologist for Washington State Department of Natural Resources, said that due to our nearby local Cascadia subduction zone and lack of high ground, the Long Beach Peninsula is an area especially vulnerable to significant damage from a tsunami. Referring to the 1963 Alaska quake which provided six hours of warning to the Peninsula, a near-coastal quake would provide less than one-half hour warning. A large-magnitude subduction quake, such as the one that occurred here in January 1700, will produce a multi-story tsunami wave that could strike the Peninsula about 40 minutes after the cessation of shaking.
In describing the development of a tsunami wave, Walsh noted that our shallow-water coastline, which runs to about three miles offshore, would generate a trough for the wave, which would then crest and proceed toward shore at a heightened level. At large cuts through the primary dunes (for example Bolstad, Ocean Park and Oysterville approaches), the wave heights will likely be slightly higher with faster currents due to concentration of the wave at these locations.
At the round-table meetings each station was assigned about 10 to 12 participants who used local knowledge and their respective area of expertise to point out plots of unused land that could be used to house towers, berms or structures to be utilized for gathering sites. Subjects of primary concern where: evacuating children from the Ocean Park school grounds to areas of safety; which areas provide easiest access for the elderly and disabled; routing of traffic; stocking of provisions; and which buildings could sustain a tsunami while sheltering citizens.
Some of those contributing were Sheriff John Didion, oysterman Dick Sheldon, Cliff Peterson (administrator of the Moose Lodge), Jackie Sheldon (a realtor), John Schelling (earthquake program manager), Taft Pluming, the Chinook Observer and many others.
While the city of Long Beach's evacuation plans have already been addressed and are in future planning stages, the cities of Ocean Park, Ilwaco and Tokeland are completed. The preferred strategy will be revisited and modified as needed. Funding opportunities will be researched for implementing this preferred strategy.