It’s World Tsunami Awareness Day, and you should know that Washington faces one of the highest tsunami risks in the U.S. That’s why we are working hard to learn about tsunami hazards and produce maps and evacuation products to help you stay informed about the hazards for you and your family.
Here’s a not so fun tsunami awareness fact for you: all of Washington’s coastline is at risk for tsunamis; if you feel an earthquake get to high ground as soon as possible. Learn about tsunami hazard areas and evacuation routes ahead of time so if you are near the coast when the next earthquake happens you will already know where to go to get to safety.
As we saw in September in Palu, Indonesia, tsunamis can be devastating events that re-shape the ground, destroy structures and claim thousands of lives. Washington is also vulnerable to this type of event.
Tsunami deposits, submarine landslides, and buried trees remain reminders of the 1700 A.D. Magnitude 9 megathrust earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone that produced a tsunami that flooded much of Washington’s coast. These clues have been located in numerous places along the Washington, Oregon, California, and Vancouver Island coasts.
We’re also vulnerable to tsunamis caused by distant earthquakes. A magnitude 9.2 earthquake shook the coast of Alaska southeast of Anchorage in 1964. The quake last almost 4.5 minutes, impacting many in Alaska. The ensuing tsunami traveled more than 1,300 miles to unundate the coast of Washington, Oregon and California, killing 16 people.
Another remarkable tsunami struck inland, when a series of landslides into Lake Roosevelt produced tsunami waves as high 65 feet.
This is why The Washington Geological Survey helps communities across Washington identify how they may be vulnerable to similar tsunami events and how they can craft innovative strategies for preparing for those threats.
We work with scientists and emergency managers to map results from modeled tsunami scenarios to show where waves would likely strike after a Cascadia quake, identify evacuation routes, and help communities with vertical evacuation strategies. Earlier this year, we released new tsunami inundation hazard maps for Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Bellingham, Anacortes, and the southwest Washington coast.
In addition, Washington faces the second highest risk from earthquakes in the U.S., and one of the highest for tsunamis, yet remains the only west coast state that does not have an inventory of the seismic hazard for critical infrastructure. We’re working every day to identify and map faults, so you can know where your nearest hazards lie.
The Washington Emergency Management Division says the best way to survive any type of disaster is to have a plan, keep informed, and have a mobile survival kit.
Find your best routes
Want to find the best evacuation routes for your community? Our Geologic Information Portal has a tsunami layer that shows tsunami hazard zones, evacuation routes, and designated assembly areas. Use the address locator tool to find evacuation routes and assembly areas near your home, school or workplace.
Using our interactive maps, you can create, save, and print custom maps, find more information about map features, and download map data for use in a geographic information system (GIS). In addition to a variety of geoscience layers that can be turned on and off, each interactive map has many base layers to choose from, so you can customize your map in any number of ways.