Tsunami Information

A tsunami is a series of waves generated by an undersea disturbance such as an earthquake. From the area of the disturbance, waves travel outward in all directions, much like the ripples caused by throwing a rock into a pond. The time between wave crests may be from 5 to 90 minutes, and the wave speed in the open ocean may average 450 miles per hour. The areas at greatest risk for damage are less than 50 feet above sea level and within one mile of the shoreline. Tsunami waves can kill and injure people and cause great property damage where they come ashore. The first wave is often not the largest; successive waves may be spaced many minutes apart and continue to arrive for several hours.
 tsunami sign
If an earthquake displaces the sea floor near our coast, the first waves could reach the shore just minutes after the ground stops shaking. In this case, there would be no time for national, state, or local authorities to issue a warning.
If the earthquake is far out in the Pacific Ocean, it could take hours for tsunami waves to reach the Washington Coast. The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center would alert local officials, who may order evacuation.  If you notice a sudden drop or rise in sea level, it may be a warning of impending danger. Move to high ground or inland immediately.
Pacific County Emergency Management officials may notify residents of a tsunami by several methods. The Pacific County Emergency Notification Network is a telephonic warning system that will dial county residents through the public switched telephone network. A recorded message or text message will provide residents information pertinent to that event. You can sign up here to receive notifications on your home phone, cellular phone, email, and/or TDD. Severe weather and other emergency messages will be broadcast over NOAA radio. In addition, there are several All Hazard Alert Broadcast (AHAB) sirens installed on the Long Beach Peninsula, designed to alert people who are out of doors at the time of the notification. Pacific County fire departments may also be dispatched to broadcast a message via truck-mounted PA systems, if time allows.
  • Have a NOAA radio.
  • Find out if your home is in a danger area.
  • Consider an earthquake or a sizable ground rumbling a warning signal. A noticeable, rapid rise or fall in coastal waters is also a sign that a tsunami is approaching.
  • Make evacuation plans. Pick multiple inland locations that are elevated. After an earthquake, roads in and out of the vicinity may be blocked, so pick more than one evacuation route. Practice both a driving and a walking evacuation route; know how long it takes to do both.
  • Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.
  • Have disaster supplies on hand.
  • Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a tsunami (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
  • Make sure all family members are aware of the plan.
  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, often it’s easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
  • If you feel an earthquake, Drop, Cover, and Hold.   Drop to the ground to avoid flying objects. Cover – find something sturdy to get beneath. Hold on and stay down until the shaking stops.
  • Stay off the phone – Stay off both land lines and cell phones. Otherwise, Pacific County Emergency Management Telephonic Warning System can’t get through. Also, Emergency Response Agencies will need the phone system.
  • DO NOT call 9-1-1 for information.
  • Listen to your NOAA radio and local radio station to get the latest emergency information, and be ready to evacuate if asked to do so.
  • If you hear an official tsunami evacuation siren, hear an alert on your NOAA radio, receive a telephonic warning or detect signs of a tsunami, evacuate at once. Climb to higher ground. A tsunami warning is issued when authorities are certain that a tsunami threat exists.
  • If possible, walk to nearest high ground – at least 50’ above sea level.
  • If you must drive, drive carefully; accidents slow evacuation.
  • Stay away from the beach. DO NOT go down to the beach to watch a tsunami. If you can see the wave, you are too close to escape it.
  • Remember: a tsunami is a series of waves. Do not assume that one wave means that the danger over. The next wave may be larger than the first one. Stay out of the area.
  • Be prepared to provide for yourself and family for 3 – 5 days. This is the approximate time period for State and Federal Disaster Teams to respond.
  • Stay tuned to a local radio station for the latest emergency information.
  • Return home only after authorities advise it is safe to do so. Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • Enter your home with caution. Check for electrical shorts and live wires. Do not use appliances or lights until an electrician has checked the electrical system.
  • Check food supplies and test drinking water. Fresh food that has come in contact with flood waters may be contaminated and should be thrown out.
  • Have tap water tested by the local health department.