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Feature Stories

Tsunami Awareness Rolls Through L.B.

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 7
4/4/2014


By Bill Owen

The Aquarium of the Pacific hosted a tsunami awareness and preparedness presentation on March 24 where a panel of experts talked about the possible scenarios Southern California residents may encounter along the coast in the event of a tsunami.

Experts included Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey, Jeff Reeb of the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management, Patrick Lynett, PhD, of the USC Tsunami Research Center and Rick Wilson of the California Geological Survey, as well as other authorities from the American Red Cross, Specific Needs Awareness Planning, Long Beach Poly High School CERT team and the Los Angeles County Emergency Survival Program.

Each panelist talked about their respective specialty and discussed what actions to take should a tsunami strike and how to prepare for one. Wave prediction models and inundation maps were projected on the aquarium’s six foot-tall globe to show which areas of Southern California would be affected the most.

According to these inundation maps and others on the California Department of Conservation website (www.conservation.ca.gov), most of Los Angeles would be unaffected by a tsunami. However, parts of Long Beach, along with Marina del Rey, would sustain significant damage.

The harbor, Terminal Island, Shoreline Drive and Naples/Alamitos Bay would be the only areas affected. These projections, while possible, are not guaranteed according to Lynett.

“The event that we look at here is the worst case. It’s something that happens every few hundred years—about five hundred to a thousand years,” Lynett said.

Wilson talked about different maps and guides being developed to help different entities like the maritime community and coastal cities deal with tsunamis.

“We’re developing maps we’re calling ‘playbooks’…its like a response [guide] for different sized events. We’re also working on maps that will help local cities and counties with development along the coast called probability maps. They’re relating what might happen in 100 years, or 500 years,” said Rick Wilson of the California Geological Survey.

Representatives from the American Red Cross had valuable advice for those facing a tsunami situation.

Residents should head for higher ground or away from the coast if they feel an earthquake. At least two miles inland or 100 feet above sea level are safe places to be. In many cases, this elevation is reached within a few blocks of the beach.

Beachgoers should evacuate immediately and do the same. The tide will often recede abnormally far after an earthquake, so people need to resist the urge to follow it out and explore the newly exposed sea floor.

Boat owners will have to cut their losses and leave their boats behind. There is not enough time to attempt to pull a boat out of the water and trailer it away. If they are on the water and feel an earthquake or notice the tide going out at an increasingly rapid pace, they need to head offshore into at least 600 feet of water where they may have to stay for up to a few days while the currents die down inshore.

The Red Cross also has mobile apps for first aid, hurricane, flood, earthquake, tornado, wildfire and other types of disasters. These apps help prepare for and survive natural disasters and are available through www.redcross.org.

“They’re all free, and they will send you a push notification for each of those types of emergencies, and projected actions to take when they happen,” said Hilary Anderson of the Red Cross.

Three members of the Long Beach Poly High School Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) were on hand to discuss their role in disaster relief. The FEMA-sanctioned program was founded recently, with the first class “graduating” in mid-January.

CERT is made up of high school students who are trained to assist in relief in the event of a disaster when law enforcement and medical services are stretched too thin to help.

A wide variety of information about tsunami preparedness is available. Visit www.usgs.org and www.consrv.ca.gov/CGS to read about the nation’s geological surveys. To visit the Office of Emergency Management page, go to www.lacoa.org. The California Emergency Management Agency’s website is www.oes.ca.gov. The Earthquake Country Alliance’s page is located at www.earthquakecountry.info. In addition, www.tsunamizone.org and www.myhazards.calema.ca.gov are recommended. All of these websites have information relating to tsunami preparation and survival.

bill@longbeachcomber.com