Here’s a great article from Slate describing the Native American stories of the great earthquake and tsunami that impacted the Pacific Northwest in 1700. These stories describe the shaking and ocean water that encroached upon their homes. Many Pacific Northwest tribes knew of the seismic threat generations before geologists & scientists caught up with this narrative. Interesting story!
I would like to applaud geologists for always looking to improve our reporting and forecasting for a 9.0 earthquake.
One thing to note, the state of Oregon re-forecast their tsunami maps after the Japanese earthquake. I assume they took into account how the water flowed in Japan and compared it to the topography along our coastline. For instance, before 2008 the map essentially said the people of Coos Bay would be affected along the beaches (which are a distance from the actual town) and the bay would possibly have a surge similar to the 11-foot tides in the winter months (with 11-foot tides in Coos Bay, the water will reach Highway 101 slightly but not much).
After 2011, the Japanese earthquake showed a more aggressive tsunami and US geologists realized this could happen along our coastline. So they reforecast. Now, a tsunami in Coos Bay can reach all the way out into Libby through the sloughs that feed from the bay. It seems crazy… I would have to drive 15 minutes to get to a beach from the area yet a tsunami will wind its way through various sloughs, tributaries and marshes overflowing into parts of some secluded inland areas. Following the geologist’s logic and looking at the land and understanding the area (my grandparents owned the large ranch in the Libby area where the tsunami inundation zone essentially “ends”) – it makes absolute sense. It’s marshy most of the year even during the summer months. This is conjecture on my part, but the land likely dropped from the 1700 earthquake making it a marsh similar to some parts of Anchorage after 1964. The terrain is similar in texture.
The same goes for a tsunami that might reach Coos Bay’s Blossom Gulch elementary school – which was illustrated in the state’s re-forecast after the Japanese quake. Again, it seems outlandish since you can’t even see water from the grade school but I appreciate the geologists taking into account what happened in Japan and forecasting how that would look along areas such as Coos Bay. If you live there and understand the lay of the land – it’s logical and makes sense. I assume it’s the same for other coastal communities.
Thank you to the many subject matter experts and researchers who are working to save lives.
This is an interesting look at how Tsunami’s are formed after an earthquake. I am fascinated by the description of the receding water as it rushes out to sea before the momentum turns and it creates a wall of water headed towards land.
English: A picture of the 2004 tsunami in Ao Nang, Krabi Province, Thailand. Français : Image montrant le raz-de-marée de 2004 à Ao Nang, en Thaïlande. Italiano: Una fotografia del maremoto dell’Oceano Indiano ad Ao Nang, in Tailandia. Español: Imagen del terremoto del Océano Índico de 2004 en Ao Nang, Tailandia. മലയാളം: 2004-ൽ ഇന്ത്യൻ മഹാസമുദ്രത്തിൽ ഉണ്ടായ സുനാമി, തായ്ലാന്റിലെ ആവോ നാങിൽ നിന്നുള്ള ചിത്രം. Myanmasa: ဆူနာမီ (Photo credit: Wikipedia) – that bit of knowledge saved lives.
I also recall the little girl vacationing during the Indian earthquake who recognized the draining sound taught to her as a key indicator of a tsunami. That bit of knowledge saved lives.
So remember, if you are ever on the coastline, after a local earthquake or one on the other side of the ocean, please keep in mind… if the ocean recedes quickly and or you hear a draining noise from the water as it rushes out to sea…. RUN… RUN as fast as you can for the highest point you can possibly find. In fact, whenever I visit the beach, I always scope out the highest point and the easiest route if I need to get my family to higher ground.
Marshfield, Oregon (now Coos Bay) circa 1920 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, most of my family is from Coos County and boy do they find me annoying. I swear I can start a conversation about how so and so’s son is doing on Varsity basketball and quickly steer the conversation to “Did you know the Tsunami wave will reach all the way to Mingus Park and Blossom Gulch?” I know they get off the phone with me, shake their head, and say “she is at it again.” I can’t help it. This earthquake is looming in the distance and no one has a clue when it will strike. This scares me to death.
I have so many family members down in Coos Bay, let alone worrying about my own kids here in Portland, and I feel this topic is worth discussing. I especially find it disturbing that scientists are saying that the quakes that are occurring offshore in the 5.0-6.0 range are a sign of a megathrust quake in the future — where it might be sooner rather than later. I used to think that these small quakes were a good thing because it is releasing energy by taking pressure off of the fault. Not so according to one study issued by the State of Oregon. That’s unfortunately a myth.
So, I continue to plague my family gatherings with, “so do you have a gallon of water per person, per day for over a week…. and how are you with supplies.” (Cue their eye roll) I only do this because I care so deeply about their safety and I need to focus on my own family and I want the peace of mind knowing that my family and friends are safe.
My advice to all in the Northwest. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. (a gallon of water, per person, per day for over a week… and don’t forget about your pets, they need water too)
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I read a study recently discussed on KGW which stated scientists estimate 10,000 people in the Northwest will perish from this megaquake…. this gives me chills. I’m not an overly religious person but I actually catch myself saying a little prayer that my children are not among the casualties. I really, really pray they always remain safe and this earthquake doesn’t occur in their (very long) lifetime.
Unfortunately, I can see this large body count happening after growing up along the coast. The news of the earthquake is a slap in the face and many live in denial. I feel there was almost a false sense of security that “we live God’s country” – we don’t have tornadoes (BTW, I read that one did touchdown in Coos County about 30 plus years ago), no hurricanes (OK, we will not count the Columbus Day storm, where winds at Cape Blanco were well over 145 mph), no black widow spiders (we have the Hobo Spider and they are nasty little suckers), but all in all…. it’s a pretty tame environment or at least so I thought.
Many residents may think that they can muscle through this event, which they may and I hope they do, but without knowing where is safe and where landslides
English: Damage from the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
may occur, how can you truly be safe?
I implore anyone living along the coasts of Washington and Oregon… know the path of a tsunami whether it’s from a local earthquake or a distant one. (The paths may vary depending on the location of the seismic activity) It will surprise you.