In the past decade, tsunamis have devastated many coastal communities, including areas in Japan, the Solomon Islands and the Indian Ocean. In some cases, there is little to no warning, but even without alerts there are signs that can signal potential tsunamis. Staying informed can make the difference between life and death… so read closely.
Tsunamis are a series of ocean waves that effect coastal areas, and can be thousands of miles long travelling up to 600 mph. Deep in the ocean, these waves can be less than a foot high. However, once they hit land, they run out of room to travel, bunch up and grow quickly.
Tsunamis are most commonly caused by earthquakes beneath the sea floor. Landslides, volcanic activity and meteorite impacts have also caused tsunamis. Distant sources can take up to 22 hours to reach coastal areas. However, when the source is local, the tsunami can hit the shore in minutes.
The Pacific Tsunami warning center in Hawaii and the West Coast and Alaska warning center were established to detect and inform people when it is necessary to evacuate in the United States. Within 5 minutes of a tsunami-producing earthquake occurrence, warnings are issued with the National Weather Service, State Emergency Services and the US Coast Guard.
Animation showing the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami’s path. By: Wikimedia Commons/Vasilay V. Titov
Even without these warnings, there are signs that can signal potential tsunamis. Looking out for these following signs can help in the event of an emergency:
– Unusual disappearance of water at the ocean.
– A very strong earthquake near the ocean that knocks people off their feet or lasts 20 seconds or longer.
– A loud ocean roar can signal a distant wave before it can be seen.
In the event of a tsunami there are different precautions to take:
– Evacuate inland to higher land 100ft above sea level.
– In low-lying coastal areas, head to the 10th floor or higher of a concrete enforced.
– If you are in a boat at sea or in the harbor, head to deep water of 600 ft or greater.
– Do not go towards coastal areas.
Being prepared in the event of an emergency can save lives. To find out more information about tsunamis visit the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.