Friday, March 16, 2012

Surviving A Tsunami - Tips To Prepare For A Tsunami Alert

Until December 2004, most of us thought of tsunamis as the makings of a good disaster movie, if we knew what "tsunami" meant at all. But with the awful devastation of 2004, we realized how much damage a tsunami can do.

What a Tsunami Is

Tsunamis are not large tropical storms caused by high winds. They are the result of undersea geological events like volcanoes, landslides, or earthquakes that occur with massive tectonic displacements. Earthquakes that reach 6.5 or above (Richter scale) can produce devastating waves that move at up to 300 miles per hour, reach heights of 100 feet, and last from several minutes to several hours from first wave to last surge.

In the open sea, the tsunami may not be noticeable, but when they enter shallower waters, the begins to "pile up" on itself, creating a massive wave that can destroy tall buildings and even travel inland for miles with great power.

Where Tsunamis Strike

Coastal areas in the Pacific Ocean basin are the most frequent targets of tsunamis, reflecting the greater vulnerability related to the famous "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates meet to form a great circle on the sea floor. Japan has experienced many tsunamis. In fact, tsunami is a Japanese word. They've also hit Alaska and Hawaii in the Pacific Basin and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the Atlantic basin.

The Indian Ocean area has experienced many tsunamis as well, the 2004 tsunami taking more than 250,000 lives and destroying billions of dollars in property.

Preparing for a Tsunami Emergency

If you are in the water and feel a strong earthquake, leave the water immediately, getting as far from the beach as you can. Try to go to high ground, or go inland as far as possible if the ground near you is flat.

If you can see the incoming wave, you can't escape it. You simply don't have time. The best thing to do in that case is to get as high as you can as quickly as you can.

If you sense a strong earthquake and you are not at the beach, tune your radio to a local station that broadcasts during emergencies. They will notify the public in case a tsunami watch or warning has been issued, and they will let you know where emergency relief centers are.

At this point, you should know where your family members are. Make sure everyone knows about the alert. You should have an agreed-upon meeting place in case you're not all in the same place when the emergency is announced. Your meeting location should be as far from the shore as possible but not so far that people can't get to it in time.

Be sure to prepare for family members with special needs. If your family includes elderly, ill, or small children, be prepared to have help for them or try to evacuate them early. You may also want to prepare to evacuate your pets as well, bringing emergency food and water for them.

You should have prepared emergency supplies in your home. Bring them with you when you evacuate. At least take fresh water, some food, and extra clothing. Most important, have a first aid kit in case of injuries.

If you have time, you might try to secure your house, but not at the risk of your own life. There is little you can do to protect your possessions from an incoming tsunami, so focus on saving lives first.

Tsunami Watch or Tsunami Warning

The two terms have important different meanings. When authorities issue a tsunami watch, it means that a tsunami is possible, but no one has reported seeing one or a sighting hasn't been verified yet. A watch may include estimates for when and where a tsunami may strike.

When they issue a tsunami warning, it means that a tsunami has been reported and confirmed. By the time they issue the warning, the tsunami could be close. The warning will also let you know where to expect it to strike and when.

During the Wave

If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself at the mercy of an incoming tsunami, climb onto a rooftop or the highest point you can reach. The more stable the building, the safer the support will be. But get as high as you can no matter what. Hold on as tight as you can to any stable and heavy object available. If you must, climb a tree.

If you've already been overtaken by the water, grab something floating that's large enough to support you and hold onto it until you can find stable ground or get help. Grab anything that seems firm and try to get out of the water. The current will be strong, and you could be hurt by debris in the water. If you can get any part of your body out of the water, do so.

You have to accept that tsunamis, like most natural disasters, are uncontrollable. You will have the earthquake warning to give you time to escape.

Keep your head. Remain calm. The better prepared you are, the better your chances of surviving.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Danger in the Pacific - The Samoa Tsunami

With the help of my colleague, Alex Molina, I recently wrote about the realistic danger that tsunamis posed to the west coast of the United States.

I had vastly underestimated the damage a tsunami can do, and the last two days, after reading about the 8.3 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that followed, I also got to watch the Pacific Ocean's tsunami warning system in action.

In the case of Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga, the earthquake's epicenter and aftershocks were in some cases less than 100 miles from the coastlines. This meant that the early warning system had little time to warn anyone. At this time, over 111 people are reported missing or dead from the three Pacific territories, and that count is expected to be considerably higher once emergency personnel make it to hard to access, outlying areas. In some cases, the waves came as far as a mile inland.

From reports from the wire services and people I've talked to in American Samoa, the only immediate warning for the tsunami most people received were the cell phone calls made by forward-thinking family. Common sense dictated that if an earthquake was both near enough and powerful enough to damage buildings, a tsunami was on its way. While many villages were literally swept completely into the Pacific Ocean, most people managed to get to high ground and escaped with their lives.

In the future, these three areas, particularly American Samoa, since it is under jurisdiction of FEMA and the US Government, will have to improve their Tsunami warning system up to the high standard set by the state of Oregon, which includes blue sirens all along the coast, and regularly scheduled tsunami drills in all the public schools.

Now for the good news

Otherwise, the new system in the Pacific seems to be working well. In all fairness, the tsunami that hit American Samoa was practically a point-blank shot and we did not have the benefit of the buoys to warn us of what was coming. Once the tsunami had time to move out and start hitting buoys, however, we had a clear picture of when the waves would hit Hawaii, Japan, the west coast of the United States, and other Pacific area at risk.

Warnings were made well in advance, and ships were able to seek deeper, safer waters, tsunami watches and warnings went into effect, and quickly out of effect, once the NOAA knew the waves had lost considerable power and size and represented little threat.

Even in far away, Venice Beach, California, lifeguards advised people to get out of the water in advance of the waves, and the tsunami showed up right on time. Apparently there wasn't much punch left, but I'm sure the state of California is relieved. Still, the unfortunate and low lying town of Crescent City, California was battered by a 1.5 foot peak over normal tides - a size comparable to the largest waves to hit Hawaii after the quake. State officials, knowing the town's vulnerability to tsunamis, were able to take the right precautions, however, and other than a scare to the local fish, no one was harmed and no property damage was reported.

Putting this into perspective

As we speak, a much deadlier weather event has left over 300 dead and thousands homeless, as Typhoon Ketsana has slammed into the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia. As much as 80% of Manila is underwater. A second quake hit Indonesia today, a 7.6 magnitude quake, scaring everyone up into the hills. Considering it was an 8.0 quake in the same area that prompted the 2004 Tsunami of infamy, I can't say they overreacted. If I felt a strong earthquake on any coastline, I would hightail it at least a mile into the hills as well.

The tsunami that resulted from it was less that a foot, smaller than what hit Hawaii or Crescent City, California from the Samoa earthquake. Officials were able to call off the warnings and people soon returned to their normal lives.

In the world of extreme weather events, we can only still guess at exactly what a hurricane will do or where it will go. This is true of many weather events, be they floods, tornadoes, even a wildfire. Earthquakes are the worst of all, and give no warning, but unless you are close to the epicenter, tsunamis are at least predictable in the Pacific, thanks to the work of the US and Japanese governments.

At this point in time, we have the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, headquartered in Hawaii, that watches all the tidal buoys in the Pacific Ocean at all times and gives us a very clear picture of what is going on out there. While they can't do much to warn of a tsunami when it first starts it's trek from the ocean floor, they certainly can track it within a few minutes of when it will land.

My heart goes out to the victims of Typhoon Ketsana and the recent Samoan tsunami, but I'm relieved that our relatively new typhoon tracking system has seen it's first real test.

Many scientists agree that at some point in the 21st century, we will see a quake and tsunami on the scale of the Cascadian Tsunami from 300 years ago. Without a working warning system in place, the results could be far worse than the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004.

Now that our tidal warning system has seen a full dress rehearsal, I feel much better about being prepared if the big one does indeed come.

For those who are interested, you can read my writeup from last week, Tsunamis in America: Can They Happen Here? Part 1.

Ryan W. Campbell is an assistant editor for the newly launched You can read more of his work there.

Ryan is from the Texas Gulf Coast and is a 16 year veteran of the United States Navy. He's a fan of motorcycles, extreme weather, camping, and fishing.

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Tsunami 2012 - Evidence Projects This Massive Wave to Wipe Continents off The Map

Tsunami 2012, now this tsunami is going to make that event look almost like it was an average everyday occurrence of which caused a tiny impression. With this sort of tsunami shall be what is identified as a mega-tsunami.

 A volcanic eruption, a mega-tsunami is truly going to be caused by substantial landslides which cause massive displacements of water, which will in effect cause a mega-tsunami.

Now think with regards to this being hundreds of times further massive and creating massive damage that will destroy full states as well as hundreds of kilometers of territory. The specific mega-tsunami that shall hit in 2012 definitely will bring about these kinds of situations.

In 1792 on Mount Unseen, Japan: Taking place here a large landslide was produced which created a wave that ended up being 524 m tall, the largest height ever. Thankfully a population was not located in the direction of this mega-tsunami in which as an end result, the power striped down timber and ripped everything down into nothing but soil.

Now can you visualize how huge this unique mega-tsunami is supposed to be and also what kind of effects is likely to result through this. Discover exactly what is truly going to protect your life as well as provide you with awareness to live thru this occurrence, tsunami 2012.