How to survive a tsunami after a big earthquake was the topic of the day on Newport’s Bayfront Monday afternoon as the Consul General of Japan visited the Tsunami Awareness and Information display next to Marine Discovery Tours.
Marine Historian and Newport Tsunami Dock Foundation board member Bob Ward led the tour of the Bayfront tsunami dock display outlining the information on it to Japanese Consul General Hiroshi Furusawa. Ward told Furusawa that Newport’s Bayfront attracts millions of people to its waterfront every year yet. In the event of a Cascadia Earthquake and resulting tsunami, few would know how to save themselves and their families. Ward pointed to the map where the higher ground is, and how to get there fast.
A similar earthquake and tsunami struck central Japan in March of 2011, leveling entire communities and killing 16,000 people. Ward said it’s been his goal to educate locals and tourists alike to be prepared when they come to the coast to be aware of their surroundings and how best to navigate them in the event of such a cataclysmic event. Scientists say such an event is overdue for our area – the last one documented as occurring on January 26, 1700. Marine Geologist Professor Chris Goldfinger at the University of Oregon told federal regulators last month that placing a huge natural gas export marine dock facility at Coos Bay is a bad idea because he said, “A large Cascadia event is expected within our lifetime.”
Furusawa and others in this entourage talked with other Tsunami Dock Foundation members as well as with Newport City Councilor Dr. Dick Beemer. Dr. Beemer talked about plans to provide a tsunami escape are, which is roughly the top of Safe Haven Hill, at the south end of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. The city has been working to make the hilltop suitable for up to 5,000 refugees fleeing the NOAA facility, the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) and surrounding businesses and residences. Not all the work has been completed. Ward, Board member Stan Pickens and Dr. Beemer also showed the Consul General another Japanese Tsunami Dock section that is prominently placed in front of the HMSC Visitors Center at South Beach.
Furusawa said that knowing where to escape to and what will be needed to keep the population alive and healthy following such a horrendous natural disaster is a monumental challenge for any country bordering the Pacific Ocean – it’s edges commonly referred to as the Pacific Ring of Fire. He said his own country learned a great deal following the March 2011 quake and tsunami events in the Sendai region. He said Japan’s coastal areas were inundated by the tsunami innundating vast tracts of farmland that will be tough to grow anything on until normal rainfall and its flushing action reduces the salt content of the soil. He added that there are strong arguments being made about not rebuilding human habitat on those coastal lands due to the frequency of major earthquakes around the Pacific Rim and the tsunamis they create.