Simulations Depict Tsunami Impact on Washington Coastal Communities

September 3, 2020

State authorities have released new simulations that show how a powerful tsunami could overwhelm Washington state’s coastal and shoreline communities.

The Department of Natural Resources says there are some locations around the state where residents would have very little – if any – time to escape the onslaught of floodwaters because of the speed of the wave. Several experts and researchers warn that now is the time to prepare.

“It really does depend on where you are (for) what you will see first,” said Corina Allen, chief hazards geologist with the state Department of Natural Resources.

KOMO reports Allen and other geologists have been creating simulations that detail a tsunami’s impact on specific communities in the wake of a major earthquake that rattles the Cascadia subduction zone.

“The highest modeled inundation so far has been in southwest Washington at Damon Point, and there’s expected to be about 60 feet of flooding above the previously dry surface,” Allen said.

The wave would also wrap around the top of the state and make its way down to population dense areas in Seattle and Tacoma as well. Although experts say residents in those areas would have hours instead of minutes to get to safety, they still warn that losses could still be catastrophic.

Some coastal communities are contemplating building vertical evacuation structures for residents who wouldn’t have time to reach higher ground. Geologists say they just want people to work out a plan ahead of time and not when danger is bearing down.

“We hope these simulations can really help people to plan for those events before they happen,” Allen said.

The Cascadia subduction zone produces a major earthquake every 300 to 600 years. It has already been 320 years since the last magnitude 9 earthquake struck back in 1700.

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