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TSUNAMI: Be prepared

 

For home subscribers, inside today’s Curry Coastal Pilot is a new tsunami evacuation map of the Brookings and Harbor areas. 

And for those reading the Pilot off the rack, the state Department of Geology and Mine Industries’ recently-completed evacuation maps for the entire coast can be found at www.oregontsunami.org. 

On the maps, readers can find out whether their homes and workplaces are in a tsunami inundation zone and where the closest assembly areas are if there is a catastrophic event. 

“It’s not just finding where they live, but also those places they frequent, so they know whether they are in or out of a tsunami inundation zone,” said Don Kendall, emergency services coordinator for Curry County. 

The maps include important information, such as where assembly areas are and the routes people should take when evacuating.

Assembly areas are different than shelter areas, and the buildings of many assembly areas may be in ruins after the earthquake. An assembly area is a place where people can gather and take stock of the situation, while a shelter area is one where people could stay for a while. Kendall said he is still trying to build up shelter areas, but that it will take a long time. 

Kendall encourages people to collect supplies for a “Go Kit” with supplies for up to two weeks, beyond the three days currently recommended. He said in the event of a major disaster, he does not expect federal help to come quickly, and it will most likely be concentrated on urban areas first, rather than rural areas.

Residents and local businesses can also participate in the Great Shake Out, which is happening on Oct. 17. It is a worldwide earthquake drill; information about how to prepare for an earthquake, what to do in an earthquake and how to participate in the drill is available at www.shakeout.org/oregon. So far 110,000 Oregonians have registered to participate. 

A Cascadia tsunami

On January 26, 1700, at around 9 p.m., a giant earthquake rattled the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Estimated to be between 8.7 and 9.2 on the Richter scale, it created a giant tsunami that inundated low lying areas on the coast, flooding estuaries and sending surges far up coastal rivers. 

The event was so large, it sent a wave all the way to Japan, where it was recorded, allowing scientists to more accurately pinpoint the exact date and time of the event beyond dendrochronology and oral tradition from indigenous tribes. 

Similar tsunami will occur again; with earthquakes and tsunamis of this magnitude happen every 300 to 600 years. 

The reason earthquakes like this happen off the Oregon coast is because of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. A subduction zone is where when tectonic plates collide, and one is being driven under the other. The Juan de Fuca, Gorda and Explorer plates collide with the North American plate, creating the Cascadia Subduction Zone, building up tremendous amount of stress over the years. This stress is eventually released in the form of earthquake. The shock wave from the earthquake creates a tsunami, which sends waves of water out from the epicenter. 

Not all tsunami sirens in the county are operational and, in case of a major local earthquake and tsunami, they most likely wouldn’t sound anyway. The earthquake itself may be the only warning people receive about a tsunami, so if one happens, people are advised to head to immediately to assembly areas. 

But individuals can prepare for the event by participating in earthquake drills, knowing where they need to go to escape a tsunami, and by building a Go Kit that can help them survive for three days to two weeks. 

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