Posts Tagged ‘tsunami’

DNR Spartina crew on the hunt for marine debris in Willapa Bay

November 7, 2012
WA DNR Spartina crews with marine debris. Oct. 18, 2012

DNR Spartina crew pose with an airboat full of marine debris from Willapa Bay. From left to right: Aaron Schlosser, Kevin Palmer, and Ian Brauner.

Every summer, a crew of seasonal and full-time DNR staff comb the beaches in the Willapa Bay estuary removing Spartina alterniflora, an invasive, fast-growing grass. Left unchecked, this species of cordgrass, originally from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, could threaten oyster populations in the bay by crowding out native species and disrupting the ecosystem.

Fortunately, diligence has paid off: the seasonal work to remove Spartina has reduced an area of infestation from a peak of 9,000 acres to less than 2 acres.

Normally, when the Spartina eradication season ends in mid to late October, the seasonal crews are done for the winter, and the regular staff turn to other duties. This year, however, DNR was able to extend the work of the four-man crew by more than a month—through November 15—to focus on removing marine debris from beaches around Willapa Bay.


Learn about the state’s plan to deal with marine debris at one of three community meetings

November 1, 2012
Japanese consulate in Seattle confirmed boat came from Japan and was washed out to sea by the March 11, 2011, tsunami.

This boat washed up on Cape Disappointment State Park, June 15, 2012. The Japanese consulate in Seattle confirmed it was washed out to sea by the March 11, 2011 tsunami. Photo: WA Department of Ecology.

Do you live along the coast of Washington? Or do you like to visit the coast? Are you interesting in learning about the state’s plans to address marine debris that may cross the Pacific from the tragic March 11, 2011 Japan tsunami?

Find out more at one of three community meetings along the coast, sponsored by the Washington State Marine Debris Task Force:

November 7 in Port Angeles
6 p.m.
Port Angeles Senior Center
328 E. 7th Street (corner of Peabody and 7th streets)

November 15 in Ocean Shores
6:30 p.m.
Ocean Shores Convention Center
120 W. Chance A La Mer Ave.

Dec. 5 in Long Beach
3 p.m.
Peninsula Church Center
5000 “N” Place, Seaview

The state’s marine debris response plan will be a dynamic document, with new information added as needed.

Meeting details.

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B.C. earthquake gives Pacific tsunami warning system a workout

October 29, 2012
DART® (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis) monitoring buoy

This monitoring buoy is one of dozens positioned at strategic locations throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans to help authorities forecast tsunamis. Photo: NOAA.

An earthquake off the coast of British Columbia on Saturday night gave the international tsunami warning system a workout. Fortunately, no big, damaging waves developed. The strong earthquake(7.7 magnitude) shook the Queen Charlotte Islands Saturday night just after 8 p.m. The earthquake–at a depth of 3 miles and centered 96 miles south of Masset, B.C.– triggered tsunami warnings for coastal British Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii. No impact was reported to Washington’s coast. The location of the earthquake is where two tectonic plates — the Pacific and the North America plates — meet and raise the risks of large, damaging earthquakes that could cause widespread damage in western Washington.

The weekend’s earthquake and resulting tsunami warning come just 10 days after the regional Great Shakeout earthquake drill on October 18. More than 700,000 Washington residents were signed up to participate in the awareness-raising drills, which included tsunami warning siren tests along Washington State’s outer coast.

DNR works with federal, other state and local authorities to map tsunami and earthquake risks. Here’s how to access our free maps and a smartphone app. dedicated to tsunami safety. Learn more about tsunamis.

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State task force releases response plan for dealing with marine debris that reaches Washington shores

September 25, 2012
Boat washed up on beach.

This 20-ft power boat washed ashore at Cape Disappointment State Park on June 15, 2012 and was confirmed missing after the March 11, 2011 Japan tsunami. Photo: Washington Department of Ecology.

When the tragic tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, an estimated 5 million tons of debris were swept into the Pacific Ocean. While 70 percent of the debris sank near Japan’s shore, about 1.5 million tons dispersed in the ocean.

To date, only one item found on Washington shores has been confirmed coming from the tsunami—a 20-foot fiberglass boat that washed up at Cape Disappointment State Park in June. Even so, Washington’s beaches experienced an increase in marine debris in June, much of which may have come from the tsunami.

As the fall and winter storms roll in and currents shift, experts believe more of the debris will be washing ashore. Just how much, where it will land, and when it will arrive is difficult to predict. But a task force of Washington state agencies is planning for the eventual arrival of marine debris.

Yesterday, Washington state’s Marine Debris Task Force released the Washington State Marine Debris Response Plan to respond to the various kinds of debris that may wash ashore on our state’s beaches. This collaborative effort coordinates local, state, and federal activities, which include monitoring and assessing debris; determining the safest ways to handle large debris and possible contamination;  preventing invasive species from establishing; and protecting native fish and wildlife in their habitats.

DNR is one of the dozen or so state agencies participating in the task force, with the state’s Military Department Emergency Management Division leading the effort.

Task force members will be taking the plan, which is a work in progress, to the coastal communities for some informational meetings in Long Beach, Ocean Shores, and Port Angeles. Dates and times will be announced when the meetings have been scheduled.

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State task force gets $50,000 federal grant to help with marine debris

August 30, 2012
Boat washed up on beach.

This 20-ft power boat washed ashore at Cape Disappointment State Park on June 15, 2012, and was confirmed missing after the March 11, 2011, Japan tsunami. Photo: Washington Department of Ecology.

Earlier this week, we learned that the state will receive a $50,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to address the increase in marine debris along Washington’s coast. Much of this increase may be attributed to the tragic Japan tsunami that took place March 11, 2011.

The grant funding covers the following:

  • $19,000 will be used by the Department of Ecology’s Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) to clean coastal beaches of debris.
  • $15,000 will help purchase supplies such as gloves and trash bags.
  • $9,000 will pay for trash bin disposal, and hauling and disposing of large debris items.
  • $7,000 will be used to buy equipment such as trash bins.

The Washington State Marine Debris Task Force applied for the NOAA grant in July. The task force is led by the state Military Department’s Emergency Management Division with participation from numerous state and federal agencies, including DNR.

In addition to the $50,00 grant, the Gov. Gregoire released $500,000 from the governor’s emergency fund, and Ecology has provided $100,000 from the state’s litter control account. Aside from the funding sources, state agencies and local communities are mostly absorbing response and cleanup costs within their existing budgets.

So far, the only confirmed debris from the tsunami is a 20-foot fiberglass boat that washed ashore on June 15 at Cape Disappointment State Park. However, coastal communities, tribes, and long-time beach cleanup volunteers are reporting that—as of late—beaches have experienced sporadic increases in marine debris. They’re reporting a lot of yellow Styrofoam, plastic bottles, small appliances, pieces of carbon fiber, mannequin parts, wood, and floats.

For more details about the grant, read the Washington Department of Ecology’s new release from  August 27.

Stay current with the marine debris situation, sign up for the marine debris listserv.

Learn what to do if you find marine debris at the tsunami/marine debris web portal.

 If you’re out on the coast and you find debris, call 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278)

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Do you know the quickest route to escape a tsunami? Our free maps and smartphone app will show you

August 28, 2012
Tsunami zones Port Townsend

Routes for cars (solid red line) and pedestrians (red arrows) to escape an oncoming tsunami are shown for downtown Port Townsend. Image: DNR

New brochures with maps of recommended tsunami evacuation routes for pedestrians and vehicles in several Washington coastal communities have been added to our website and are available for free download. Most of Washington’s coast, including parts of Puget Sound, is at risk from tsunamis. Evacuation routes shown in the brochures are those least likely to be blocked by landslides that might result from an earthquake that causes the tsunami. The brochures also show assembly points and public safety agencies in areas expected to be safe from tsunami waters.

The maps are a joint project of the DNR Geology and Earth Resources Division, Washington Emergency Management Division, several Tribes and the counties of Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Pacific, and Whatcom.

Interactive maps of tsunami evacuation zones in both Oregon and Washington are available online and as a smartphone app (TsunamiEvac-NW).
The app and the online maps allow you to see quickly if your home, workplace, school, etc., is in a mapped tsunami hazard zone.

More information about the free TsunamiEvac-NW app and Web portal.

In addition to managing more than 5.6 million acres of state-owned lands and serving as the state’s wildland fire department, DNR houses the Washington State Geologist to provide education and technical assistance to citizens, industry and government on geologic hazards, including tsunami risks.

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Spot Japanese earthquake debris? Here’s where to report it

July 9, 2012

Debris possibly from the March 11, 2011, Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami found on Copalis Beach on June 30, 2012. Photo: Raymond Lasmanis.

Items from Asia, including buoys or consumer plastics, regularly wash up on the Washington coast, but coastal beaches are experiencing an increase in marine debris. The increase is likely a result of the March 11, 2011, tsunami that devastated Japan, claiming nearly 16,000 lives.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts tsunami debris will continue to show up on our shores intermittently during the next several years. If you spot what you suspect is debris from the Japanese tsunami, please take photos, note the location, and email the information to

We encourage you to remove and dispose of small debris items such as Styrofoam, plastic bottles or other portable objects. If it looks like the item might have sentimental value to those who owned it, please move the item to a safe place and email the information to

If you spot other types of marine debris on Washington beaches, here’s the number to call: 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278). Other marine debris that should be reported to the state include: oil, hazardous items, and large floating debris items that might pose a hazard to boating or navigation. You can also get instructions for reporting smaller and nonhazardous debris by calling 1-855-WACOAST.

As of July 2, NOAA says it had received 569  reports of potential tsunami debris both along West Coast shorelines and from sightings at sea. Among the items, confirmed as tsunami debris items is a 20-foot fiberglass boat that washed ashore at Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco on Friday, June 15. More information

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DNR keeps eye on Japanese tsunami debris; Department manages 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands

April 26, 2012
Washington coast

Washington coast. Photo: Jane Chavey

Washington agencies, including DNR, are preparing for the prospect of debris from the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami washing ashore here. Yesterday (Wednesday, April 25), representatives of local and tribal governments, state and federal agencies, and community organizations gathered in Ocean Shores to coordinate their strategies to respond to tsunami debris. Some debris could enter the Strait of Juan de Fuca and possibly reach the opening to Puget Sound.

Most, but not all, of the materials washed into the ocean following the tsunami have sunk, degraded or become widely dispersed. But as the manager and steward of some 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands, DNR is concerned about the potential environmental impacts of any debris that arrives here. Experts expect that the debris — now widely dispersed – will arive in small amounts over the next  two years.

More about the debris from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Guidance from NOAA: What to do if you see debris

Here’s what the media said about the April 25 meeting in Ocean Shores.

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Project Safe Haven honored for plans to protect Washington coastal residents from tsunamis

April 11, 2012
tsunami safe area

An artist's concept drawing of the type of berm that would provide a park and public space but also a refuge for coastal residents from a tsunami.

This morning, DNR Chief Hazards Geologist Timothy Walsh and John Schelling of the Washington Emergency Management Division will accept a National Award of Excellence on behalf of Project Safe Haven. The federally funded, multi-agency project looks for ways to improve tsunami safety for residents of coastal communities. In Washington State, many town along the coast are at high risk from tsunamis due to what the Seattle Times called “an unfortunate mix of geology and geography.”

Coastal areas of Pacific and Grays Harbor counties and parts of Puget Sound would be inundated by a tsunami, caused either by a distant Pacific Ocean earthquake or the massive Cascadia Subduction Zone just off the Washington coast. The Safe Haven Project brings coastal residents together with experts in planning, engineering, geology, architecture, and emergency management to find practical and affordable options to build tsunami safe havens in their community. Several Washington State coastal areas have little or no high ground for safety from a tsunami but likely could not be evacuated very quickly either. Many of the people killed in the March 2011 tsunami in northern Japan may have received a tsunami warning but could not leave the area fast enough to avoid the deadly waves.  (more…)

Tsunami monitoring system developed to provide earlier warnings, better forecasts

March 30, 2012
Tsunami monitoring buoys

The red dots show locations of monitoring buoys placed by the United States to provide early warnings and more accurate forecasts of distant tsunamis. Source: NOAA

With the very real threat of deadly tsunamis someday hitting Washington State’s coastal areas, what are the chances that we will get sufficient warning of an approaching tsunami? Pretty good, unless the tsunami is caused by a local earthquake.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) maintains 39 buoys with satellite-linked monitoring equipment across the Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The network relies on the DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis) system–a series of buoys that report sea level measurements to Tsunami Warning Centers (warnings for the Pacific Northwest would come from the centers in Hawaii or Alaska). These centers process the DART data along with other information from tide and seismic stations to produce refined estimates of the tsunami source. The result is a tsunami forecast that can be used to issue watches, warnings or evacuations. Japan, Australia and New Zealand are among the several nations that also maintain detection systems.

This video from NOAA Center for Tsunami Research describes how the buoys work and how tsunamis are forecasted.

A tsunami warning could be only a matter of minutes if an earthquake occurred underneath the ocean floor close to Washington State (and we have many earthquake faults under Puget Sound and the Pacific waters off of our coast).

Check out the latest tsunami evacuation and hazard zone maps available from DNR, available on the web or as a smartphone app.

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