A tsunami is a series of ocean waves caused by an earthquake or volcano on the sea floor. Tsunami waves increase in height as they approach the shore. The amount of water and energy from a tsunami can cause major destruction.

How likely is it that we could have a tsunami like the one that occurred in Asia?

TsunamiScience cannot predict when earthquakes will occur, but historical records and numerical modeling lead us to believe that the entire Pacific coastline is vulnerable to tsunamis. In terms of what might happen here, there really is no comparison to what happened in southern Asia. For one, the topography is very different as well as our warning systems. Regardless of where a tsunami might occur, history tells us that the effects can be devastating. So a well-prepared coastal community is likely to have a higher survival rate and lower level of economic loss than those coastal communities that ignore the potential for a tsunami.

Are we prepared?

That is a question for every person living in Lane County as well as for the government. In terms of government preparedness, the City of Florence has published Tsunami evacuation routes and tips on how we all can protect ourselves from a tsunami whether we live on the Coast or are just visiting. We are also part of a network of warning systems.

What does Lane County have in place to warn citizens?

Lane County is part of a network of warning systems. At the County, we expect that our first warning of a tsunami will come from the National Weather Service, which operates the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. NWS will issue a warning within 15 minutes of when an earthquake is felt that is magnitude 7.1 or greater. This could provide anywhere from several minutes to several hours of advance notice depending on the location of the earthquake.

The Public is notified via:
• An Emergency Alert System message which interrupts all T.V. and radio broadcasts of participating stations; these stations typically follow-up with updates as part of their regular broadcast.
• Activation of the Community Emergency Notification System, which can call out to 2000 phone, numbers per minute. Florence has a pre-designated set of phone numbers to be called in the event of a Tsunami
• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Weather Radio. Port of Siuslaw and Central Lincoln People’s Utility District partnered on bringing NOAA weather radio broadcasts to the central Oregon coast last October.

• Law Enforcement Agencies receive warning information via:
    o Law Enforcement Data Systems which delivers teletypes of the emergency warning.

• The Sheriff’s Office has a NAWAS (National Warning System) “drop” which is a dedicated, nationwide, party line telephone warning system operated on a 24-hour basis. It is used for the dissemination of warning and other emergency information. Lane County is one of 35 NAWAS "drops" in Oregon.

What can citizens do to be prepared?

First of all, educate yourself about earthquake and tsunami preparedness. Pay attention to public education and awareness campaigns. Seek out information on the internet and from your local public safety agencies.

From a practical standpoint, if you are in a coastal community and you feel the ground shaking (in other words, an earthquake) or notice a sharp rise or fall in coastal water, move inland and uphill as quickly as possible.

Have a grab-n-go bag with enough basic supplies, from medication to food and water, to sustain you for up to 72-hours in the event you are asked to evacuate. And, if you are asked to evacuate, do so. The net affect of potentially responding to a false alarm pales in comparison to ignoring the real thing.