2019 Winter Forecast: Oregon tsunami threat

Are you prepared for the big one? Experts have tips for how to stay safe along the coast

Posted: Nov 8, 2019 2:51 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Oregon Coast is a beautiful divider between North America and the vast Pacific Ocean, and while it can be calm and peaceful, it can also be violent and turbulent.

Six inches of rushing water is enough to knock someone off their feet, and a foot can float most small cars. A Cascadia Subduction Zone tsunami could reach 100 feet.

What would happen if you were along the Oregon Coast during a large earthquake? Do you know what to do and where to go, and would you even have time to escape before a tsunami hit?

"Before you even finished the question, I was already thinking running uphill, so that's what I'd be doing," said Kenny Weiss, a visitor to Florence.


Michael Hoover, who lives along the coast, thinks his chances are even less favorable: "I just don't think that we'd have a chance, ya know? We've been waiting for the big one for a long time."

Even if the chances of survival seem slim, experts all share the same advice.

"So generally, you need to walk or run to high ground as fast as you can. Don't use your car as it's going to cause an immediate traffic jam. Some people will, and they'll just be stuck. But walk or run to high ground, take as many people with you, if people are confused," said Chris Goldfinger, an Oregon State University marine geologist and geophysicist.

He’s been studying the Cascadia Subduction Zone for decades and is well aware of the threat the coastline faces from a tsunami.

"There are a lot of places, well not a lot, a few places, where no evacuation is possible. There's just no way to get out of there if you happen to be there at the time. And that's an unfortunate reality of where we are."


So, how do you know if you need to head to higher ground after an earthquake?

FEMA Regional Administrator Mike O’Hare shares this advice: "If you experience an earthquake that knocks you off your feet -- just to calibrate it -- that makes you unable to stand. That's a good indication of a sizeable earthquake that could effect a tsunami of great proportion and you should work your evacuation plans from there."

O’Hare also stresses the importance of being prepared, as it could take time before help arrives after a major tsunami.

"Individuals need to be prepared, they need to remove the apathy, which I think is one of our biggest threats is apathy today. 'The government is going to come in and take care of everything.' The government coming in is going to take time, a lot of time," O'Hare said.

There are numerous resources available to help get prepared for a major earthquake and tsunami, or any natural disaster.

To find tsunami inundation and evacuation maps, head to nvs.nanoos.org/TsunamiEvac.

You can also download the NVS Tsunami Evacuation app on your cellphone.

Other ways to stay prepared include the FEMA app, and visiting ready.gov to create a disaster preparedness plan for your family.

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