Tsunami Awareness & Preparedness in Cascadia Region

CREW is committed to raising awareness of the tsunami risk in the Cascadia region while promoting mitigation and preparedness. Many lessons have been learned from the March 11, 2011 Great East Japanese (Tohoku) earthquake and tsunami – these also apply to the seismically-similar Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The following links provide additional information on ongoing awareness and preparedness activities in the Cascadia region:

Washington State

  • In a Seattle Times, CREW Vice-President John Schelling and CREW Treasurer Tim Walsh express the importance of ongoing awareness activities along with the scientific information needed to better quantify Cascadia’s risk.
  • Washington Emergency Management Division has more information on how to prepare to hazards in Washington state.
  • Project Safe Haven, completed in 2011, developed vertical evacuation options for the counties of Pacific and Grays Harbor.

Oregon

British Columbia

For more information on earthquakes, tsunamis, and how to prepare, please visit our pages on Earthquake Information, Risk Reduction, and read more in our Products and Programs.

If you have any questions, please Contact Us.

Insurance Bureau of Canada reports on potential earthquake impacts

A new scientific study on the impact of a major earthquake in Canada, released in Ottawa on October 29th, 2013, by Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), leaves no doubt that Canada is not prepared to handle a major earthquake, which could happen at any time, and that the economic impact would be significant. IBC commissioned the study by AIR Worldwide, global experts in catastrophe modeling. The study is a peer-reviewed analysis of the impact of two major seismic events: one in British Columbia (western scenario) and the other in the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa corridor (eastern scenario).

It’s Beach Season in the Northwest: Are You Tsunami Ready?

After months of rain and gray skies, it’s time to pack up swimsuits and sunscreen and head to the Northwest coast. But beach visitors in our region need to prepare for more than sunshine. The Pacific coastline from northern California to British Columbia is at risk from a powerful offshore earthquake and resulting tsunami, events that are likely to cause many injuries, deaths and widespread property damage.

Coastal residents and visitors can reduce their risk from a tsunami simply by knowing when to get out of its path and how to reach safety.

What is the threat?

Tsunamis triggered by nearby earthquakes offshore, as well as distant tsunamis caused by earthquakes across the Pacific Ocean, have struck the Northwest coast. The source of the nearby quakes is the Cascadia subduction zone, which lies offshore from northern California to British Columbia. In this zone, two tectonic plates — the North America plate and the Juan de Fuca plate — come together to form an 800-mile long earthquake fault.

Scientists believe the most recent Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, a magnitude 9 event, occurred in January 1700. The best available evidence indicates that these earthquakes occur, on average, every 500 to 600 years. However, the years between these events have been as few as 100 to 300 years — meaning, all Cascadia residents, especially coastal residents and visitors, should prepare to experience a powerful and potentially damaging subduction zone earthquake in their lifetimes.

After a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, a tsunami could arrive within 15 to 20 minutes, sending a series of massive waves crashing into the shoreline and flooding entire coastal communities.

How can beachgoers prepare?

Before you head to the coast, find out if your lodging and the places you will visit are in a tsunami evacuation zone. (Oregon and Washington residents can search for an address with this tsunami evacuation zone map viewer.) Once there, look for street signs or seek out evacuation maps that show local tsunami hazard zones and routes. It’s also a good idea to prepare personal disaster supply kits to take with you on any trip.

Signs of a tsunami

You may feel that a tsunami is on its way from the ground shaking that precedes it. Other signs include a sudden rise or fall in sea level or a loud roar like a jet aircraft. Once the shaking stops, move to higher ground or farther inland as quickly as possible. Do not wait for an official warning; a tsunami may arrive within minutes. Wait for emergency officials to issue the “All Clear” signal before returning to low-lying areas. Never try to watch a tsunami or surf a tsunami wave. Tsunamis travel faster than a person can run.

Should Northwest residents be worried about visiting the coast?

Be prepared, not worried. By knowing when and how to respond to a tsunami, residents can significantly reduce the risk to their loved ones and themselves.

More tsunami resources

CREW: Tsunami Mitigation and Preparedness in the Cascadia region

NOAA/National Weather Service Tsunami Ready Program

Oregon Tsunami Clearinghouse (evacuation maps and other resources)

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

Surviving a Tsunami: Lessons from Chile, Hawaii and Japan (U.S. Geological Survey)

West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

Great ShakeOut Drill

On Oct 20th, 2011 at 10:20 am British Columbians and Oregonians participated in the Great ShakeOut Drill.  These drills were aligned with those of California, Idaho, Nevada and Guam, in order to leverage the momentum of partners throughout the Pacific. This initiative will continue to spread earthquake awareness and preparedness information giving us a greater resiliency for when an earthquake hits our region.