Nation’s first community tsunami refuge to debut Saturday, June 11, 2016

A tsunami refuge atop the gymnasium of the new Ocosta Elementary School is large enough to shelter the district’s students and community residents.

On Saturday, June 11, 2016, the Ocosta School District officially unveils a new elementary school in Westport that features the first tsunami refuge of its type in the United States. An 11 a.m. ceremony will on Saturday will dedicate the new Ocosta Elementary School at 2580 South Montesano St. in Westport.

Westport lies just off the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 600-mile-long fault that runs from northern California to Vancouver Island, leaving it vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis.

With the junior-senior high school on the same campus, all the district’s 700 students and staff can take shelter on the roof of the refuge, reported the Seattle Times recently. The building is designed to withstand both a megathrust Cascadia earthquake of 9.0 Magnitude and the pounding of tsunami waves likely to follow.

“If a tsunami were to strike, there wouldn’t be much time to get to higher ground,” said Tim Walsh, assistant manager of the DNR Division of Geology and Earth Resources, which serves as the State Geologic Survey. “So we wanted to find a way to make higher ground closer to the coast.”

Walsh was a part of the refuge’s design team, joined by Degenkolb Engineers and TCF Architecture, through the efforts of Project Safe Haven, which was launched by the Washington State Emergency Management Division in 2011.

Contributing the building’s design were model tsunami scenarios developed by University of Washington applied mathematics professors in consultation with Walsh.

As the official geologic survey of the state, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Division of Geology and Earth Sciences is responsible for monitoring, assessing, and researching geologic events and keeping the public, industry, and government informed about the nature of the land around us.