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Tsunami Risk Zones In San Diego CountyRecognizing that a tsunami could strike the U.S. coastline at any time, President Obama joinied NOAA to ask people to know their tsunami risk and prepare in case one were to strike. “During National Tsunami Preparedness Week, “I call on all Americans – especially those who live, work and relax on the coast – to learn more about tsunamis and better prepare for them,” President Obama wrote in a message released last month.

Although a tsunami cannot be prevented, community preparedness, timely warnings and effective response can save lives when seconds matter. To improve the nation’s collective preparedness for a large-scale tsunami disaster (CAPSTONE 2014 ), NOAA and its partners through the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program are conducting a number of local and national exercises to test and improve effectiveness of the U.S. Tsunami Warning System.­­­

This year’s preparedness week coincides with the 50th anniversary of the “Great Alaska Earthquake” of 1964, which generated a number of destructive tsunamis that killed 124 Americans and caused approximately $1 billion in damage. It was the largest recorded earthquake in U.S. history with a magnitude of 9.2. This year also marks 10 years since the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people.

These somber anniversaries serve to remind us of the ever-present tsunami threat, and give us an opportunity to assess our personal risk and educate ourselves on how to respond to a tsunami.

In his message, President Obama writes that since 1964, our nation has made significant improvements in our ability to forecast, detect, and warn individuals of potential tsunami impacts. The Federal Government – in partnership with state and local governments – is working diligently to improve our coastal communities’ tsunami preparedness. Since we cannot prevent tsunamis, we must come together to enhance public awareness and prepare schools, volunteer groups, rescue and relief organizations, the private sector, and the media for coordinated action before, during and after a tsunami.

NOAA and its federal, state and local partners are helping the nation prepare (See FEMA CAPSTONE 2014 National Exercise Begins), but there is a role for everyone. People who live, work and play in tsunami-threatened areas must take time to know the warning signs of a tsunami, plan for a possible disaster, stay informed and quickly respond to the signs or warning of a tsunami. To learn more, visit NOAA Tsunami Website.

tsunami_t700San Diego emergency officials and geologists teamed up at La Jolla Shores on in March to unveil new tsunami flood zone and evacuation maps. The maps and information materials were mailed to 30,000 residents and businesses as part of Tsunami Preparedness Week.

If a tsunami strikes near San Diego County, hundreds of thousands of people along the region’s 70 miles of coastline could be in danger.

Rick Wilson, senior engineering geologist with California Geological Survey, said San Diego County is fortunate that it doesn’t have large off-shore subduction zone faults that create magnitude-9 earthquakes.

“But we do have faults that can cause submarine landslides, and those landslides can trigger tsunamis,” Wilson warned.

Wilson said the state has been impacted by 13 tsunamis over the past 150 years; two occurred in the last four years, including the Japan tsunami in March 2011.

That’s why San Diego County officials and tsunami researchers have mapped out which addresses in the county are at risk of flooding.

“And potential evacuation routes where they can flee in the case of an approaching tsunami,” said Holly Crawford, San Diego County’s Office of Emergency Services director.

Crawford said far away quakes would allow several minutes to several hours of evacuation time, but nearby quakes would give very little warning.

Tsunami evacuation route

Forty-four tsunami evacuation route signs were installed in coastal areas around the county since 2010 now point out which way to flee if a big wave hits.

Crawford said it’s important for everyone to know the tsunami warning signs.

“If the earth shakes for 20 seconds, that’s a really significant earthquake. You need to leave the coast, go to a place that’s at least 100 feet above sea level or two miles inland if you can’t evacuate vertically,” Crawford said.

Other signs of a tsunami include a receding shoreline and a large ocean roaring sound.

Crawford urged San Diego County residents to register their mobile phones at readysandiego.org to receive emergency notifications.

How to Prepare for a Tsunami

To survive a tsunami, know when one is about to strike and what to do so you can act fast. Tsunami warnings are issued through television and radio, community sirens, local officials, text message alerts, wireless emergency alerts, NOAA Web sites and NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards. However, depending on where an earthquake occurs, some tsunamis can reach the coast within minutes, leaving little time to receive an alert so it is important to understand nature’s warnings:

  1. A strong earthquake, or one that persists
  2. A sudden rise or fall of the ocean
  3. A loud, roaring sound from the ocean

How to respond:

  1. Immediately move by foot inland to high ground outside the hazard zone
  2. If you cannot quickly and safely move inland, go to higher floors of a sturdy building
  3. Turn on your radio or television to learn if there is a tsunami warning
  4. Stay away from the coast until officials say it is safe to return. A tsunami may consist of more than one wave and can last for hours. The first wave may not be the last or the most dangerous.



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NOAA’s Role

More Information:





San Diego County Tsunami Inundation Maps

New Maps Show Tsunami Risk Zones In San Diego

County sends tsunami info to ‘at-riskareasSan Diego

San Diego Residents to Receive Tsunami Risk Mailers

County of San Diego: Tsunami Facts and Preparedness

Tsunami Preparedness Week: What LA areas are at risk

San Diego Installs Tsunami Warning Signs