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Tsunami Awareness Events Roll Into North Coast

SEASIDE — Oregon coastal communities are faced with the uncertainty of a tsunami striking in the next 50 years.

But a series of tsunami awareness events aim to diminish fearful uncertainty with the assurance of preparedness.

The first of seven tsunami preparedness presentations began Monday at the Broadway Middle School library in Seaside. The event marked the two-year anniversary since a massive earthquake generated a tsunami and ravaged Japan’s northern coast.

Oregon Emergency Management and the American Red Cross are conducting the presentations, which are being held in Oregon Coast cities until March 23.

The Seaside presentation garnered the attention of residents from Seaside, Gearhart and Cannon Beach. It included information about how tsunamis are created and what makes Oregon and much of the Pacific Northwest Coast susceptible. The event also demonstrated the need for emergency kits and where best to keep them.

Doug Dougherty, superintendent of the Seaside School District, opened by saying that Seaside’s schools are some of the most impacted by the threat. He said that six schools along the Oregon Coast are in the tsunami inundation zone and that the district has four of them.

With the exception of Seaside Heights Elementary School, the district’s schools are all between five and 15 feet above sea level, Dougherty said, adding that he has personally been working to relocate the schools at risk for more than 20 years.

Althea Rizzo, with Oregon Emergency Management, followed Dougherty.

“We feel very thankful that you are here this evening and as you can tell this is very well attended,” Dougherty said.

Rizzo, who is a geologic hazards program coordinator with the Oregon office, said that past tsunami disasters in Japan in 2011 and Indonesia in 2004 indicate what could happen to Oregon.

In a worst-case scenario, the Cascadia subduction zone, an earthquake fault 700 miles long, could produce a 9.0 on the Richter scale

“The subduction zones are capable of producing the largest earthquakes in the world,” Rizzo said. “These are capable of producing very devastating tsunamis.”

The ocean fault shadows the shoreline from Northern California to Vancouver, British Columbia. There is a 10 to 14 percent chance a devastating earthquake and tsunami could strike the coast in the next 50 years.

“We want to talk about resiliency, we want to talk about ways to get prepared so that when the big, bad ugly event happens, we can recover as quickly as possible,” Rizzo said.

“We want to get you guys prepared so that you can enjoy living in this geologically active area.”

Rizzo said it’s likely that coastal communities could be on their own for quite some time in the event of an earthquake and tsunami. Landslides and unstable flat ground could prove difficult for the state’s first-responders to reach survivors.

“We need to educate our public that they are their own first responders,” she said.

Rizzo said that residents should know how long it takes to get to high ground and to prepare an emergency kit that is kept in the car or nearby at all times.

“We have a lot of assumptions about our preparedness and we really need to think about all possibilities and then plan for them,” she said.

The American Red Cross presented an example of an emergency kit, which included an emergency blanket, headlamp, gloves, dust masks and medication paperwork.

They also gave examples of food items, such as packaged tuna fish or instant oatmeal.

After a question and answer period, Red Cross backpacks and emergency preparation items were given out during a raffle. Pamphlets and ready-to-eat packaged meals were also available.

The next presentation is scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. today at the Astoria Library, 450 10th St.

This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.

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