Washington’s Skagit County Gets New Tsunami Planning Maps

July 9, 2018

Skagit County officials in northwestern Washington have a new resource to help plan for potential big waves caused by large earthquakes along the West Coast.

Skagit County Department of Emergency Management Director Doug ten Hoopen tells the Skagit Valley Herald that tsunami “inundation maps” released this week will be used to locate safe spots for residents outside inundation zones.

“Depending on how bad it is, they may have no home to go back to,” he said. “Or it may be condemned from damage, even if it’s still standing there.”

Safe spots could be parking lots or open fields where displaced residents could get help from emergency responders. The county plans to eventually post maps in public places and install evacuation route signs to safe areas.

Studies say that after a large earthquake, water along shorelines would retreat, dropping more than 6 feet (2 meters) before rushing back about two hours later. That means residents would have several hours to get to a safe zone.

“All modeling indicates there will be plenty of time to get to those areas as long as people heed the warnings when they come in,” ten Hoopen said.

Natural Resources spokesman Joe Smilie said maps showing safe assembly areas could be finished by the end of the year.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone beneath the Pacific Ocean off the West Coast has caused large earthquakes in the past. Geologists say the last time was January 1700. But it’s hard to predict when the next one will occur.

“It could happen tomorrow or it could happen long after you and I are dead,” ten Hoopen said.

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