Tsunami readiness lacks

first_imgTsunami waves generated by a large offshore earthquake would threaten at least 1 million coastal residents in California and inundate the nation’s largest port complex, according to a new report. The bleak study released today found gaps in the state’s readiness to handle a tsunami, including flaws in the existing warning system, lack of evacuation plans by coastal communities, and building codes that don’t take into account tsunami-strength surges. In addition, many residents are unaware of the potential danger of tsunami waves and would not know how to respond to warnings, the report said. “I don’t think we’re ready yet, but we’re getting there,” said Richard McCarthy, executive director of the California Seismic Safety Commission, which issued the report. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals In the past century, more than 80 tsunamis – mostly minor – have been recorded or observed along the California coastline, which faces tsunami threats from local and distant sources in the Pacific basin. The most deadly tsunami to strike California was in 1964 when 12 people died from massive waves generated by a magnitude-9.2 earthquake in Alaska. The commission – an independent panel that advises the governor, Legislature and local governments – formed a special committee in response to last year’s monster quake and tsunami that killed more than 176,000 people in nearly a dozen Southeast Asian countries. While catastrophic tsunamis rarely strike the West Coast, state officials are acutely aware of the potential for damage and loss of life as a result of booming development along California’s coastline. The report found many Californians are not adequately trained about the risks of a tsunami and recommended creating multi-language fliers and brochures detailing the hazards. About a million people live in low-lying coastal areas that are vulnerable to flooding by a tsunami. Existing building codes call for structures to be erected to withstand severe shaking from an earthquake, but the report revealed that homes and businesses are rarely designed to hold up against tsunami-force surges. A joint program by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working on design guidelines for tsunami shelters that could extend to strengthening hospitals and other facilities. The report also found most coastal communities lacked evacuation plans for residents because of funding problems. Crescent City in Northern California and the University of California, Santa Barbara, are among the few places that have an escape route for residents. The state Office of Emergency Services, along with the University of California, have produced inundation maps that show the coastal areas most at risk, but few communities have used the maps to carve out evacuation routes and install signs in case of an emergency exodus. Along with threatening lives and property, a giant tsunami would strike an economic blow to the state, given the vulnerability of its ports, the report said. As much as $60 billion in economic loss is estimated if a tsunami caused a two-month shutdown at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The third busiest port in the world, the docks and terminals at the complex rest only nine feet above seawater level. The fear is that a tsunami wave bigger than that would overtop the wharf, flood the port and cause extensive damage if advance warning was not given, the report found. In June, a tiny tsunami off the far Northern California coast exposed how unready some communities were in dealing with a real threat. Some cities were confused by the differing tsunami warning messages that came from two centers operated by NOAA. The warning eventually expired, but since then federal, state and local officials have met several times to figure out how best to alert communities – an action that won praise from the authors of the report. Meanwhile, scientists are keeping an eye on a 680-mile undersea fault 50 miles off the West Coast known as the Cascadia subduction zone. The fault behaves much like the one that ruptured off the Indonesian island of Sumatra last year and the one that produced the 1964 Alaska temblor. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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