Tsunami disasters are a terrible event that you cannot prevent. More dangerous than other disasters be-cause planning for a tsunami is still a fairly new concept, in addition to the terrifying danger and destruction associated with tsunamis.

Tsunamis have happened all over the world though they haven’t happened locally since 1700. So why take money away from disasters that are currently occurring to fund some-thing that is only occasionally occurring? The answer to that question is that a tsunami can have permanent impact on the local environment, including permanently uprooting many residents with significant loss of life and property.

Most of us have seen on television the damage caused by tsunamis. Around the world people have learned that there are some basic things to take into consideration: when will the water arrive, how high will the water be, and are there local areas where someone could get above the water before it arrives?

Over the past 20 years we’ve become pretty good at evaluating an accumulation of data that show us where historic tsunamis have been and how often they occur. One outcome is being able to project the extent of a tsunami on the surface of adjacent dry land in a variety of modeled scenarios. Improvements to the resolution of topographical data have gone a long way to making these tsunami inundation data that we use today. To plan for a tsunami, we need to know where a tsunami could be and where it is not likely to occur.

Once we’ve determined that, it’s a good idea to move forward by planning how people can evacuate from where they live to a safer location at a higher elevation, hopefully within a walking distance that can be traveled in 15 minutes or less. In Surfside, we’re planning for this by establishing the highest elevations within Surfside 50-70 feet above sea level to be assembly areas where people temporarily meet before the tsunami arrives.

In 2014, the first pedestrian evacuation map for Surfside was constructed by Mark Scott, a cartologist. Scott worked with the Surfside Emergency Management Committee (John Williams, chairperson) and helped establish evacuation routes to high ground. An annual event in Surfside is the tsunami walk/run using actual pedestrian routes. Through the years we’ve made considerable progress and just recently had signs in locations throughout Surfside that serve to guide pedestrians to the highest local ground in a reasonable amount of time.

The next few steps with area signs involve the demarcation of assembly areas. Each of the signs are in the Pacific County Right of Way usually on J Place, or leading evacuees to J Place so that residents can get to the highest elevations available. Ideally, privately owned higher ground is immediately adjacent to the signage on J Place.

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