Coastal Tsunami Dangers
Geologic Hazards on the Oregon Coast
An introduction to tsunamis
from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries
“... Tsunami maps of the Oregon coast were produced by DOGAMI in response to a bill passed by the 1995 Legislature, limiting construction of new hospitals, schools, and other similar public-service buildings in tsunami flood zones.”
Tsunami provides Oregon with a teachable moment
Monday, January 10, 2005
“This is the ultimate teachable moment," said Onno Husing, after hearing of the terrible events in the Indian Ocean. He meant teachable in Oregon.
Husing directs the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association. He also was the one-man staff of the Oregon Joint Interim Uniform Tsunami Response Planning Task Force.
In 2002-2003, I chaired that newly created task force because of my concern, and that of others, that a 9.0-scale earthquake would someday occur close to the Oregon coast, triggering a giant tsunami wave over lower-elevation parts of the coast. My interest was sparked by Wilbur Ternyik, a longtime public official in Florence, who told me several years ago that the coast -- visitors in particular -- was ill-prepared for a tsunami.
During the spring of 2002, a group of legislators and other policy makers, emergency management personnel and a state regional geologist met to discuss how best to protect an unbelieving public from a tsunami that could propel a 40-foot wave to the beach in 15 to 30 minutes. The geologist warned that such a wave had occurred in Oregon before, in 1700, and that one today could kill 10,000 people if it hit crowded Seaside on a warm summer weekend.
Our task force ultimately submitted Senate Bill 650 during the last legislative session. It would have authorized the state Office of Emergency Management (which supported the bill) to establish tsunami warning information, evacuation plans and a uniform tsunami warning signal. The warning signal was already being planned and randomly implemented as we met.
What was not acceptable to some on the coast is the part of the bill that read: "Requires transient lodging facilities located within the tsunami inundation zones to post tsunami warning information and evacuation plans." Objecting to highway signs designating tsunami danger areas, one coastal mayor said, "It sounds like we are inviting people to come to my city to die."
He was an exception -- many coastal officials recognized the problem and supported the bill. But a powerful legislative committee co-chairman killed it.
Now the events of Dec. 26 may persuade both legislators and a previously apathetic public that something terrifyingly similar could -- and inevitably someday will -- occur in Oregon.
Husing is organizing a Tsunami Summit of experts and officials in February. And I will re-introduce SB 650 in the new legislative session that begins this month.
Sen. Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, represents central Lane and Linn counties.