Hundreds of South Beach workers and residents are expected to be evacuating their buildings Wednesday afternoon at 2pm, and head for what’s been dubbed “Safe Haven Hill.” It’s the big hill just west of Highway 101 at the south end of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. It’s part of a large evacuation drill aimed at testing whether hundreds, if not thousands of people can get to higher ground ahead of a large tsunami that can be expected following a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake that could hit the coast at any time, according to geologists.
Highway 101 will be closed down from 2:20-2:30pm on Wednesday to allow those participating in the drill to cross 101 safely. A suggestion to simply cross under the bridge was discounted under the assumption that a major earthquake preceding the tsunami will cause the bridge to collapse, thereby posing a barrier for those headed for the safety of the hilltop.
Newport city officials have applied for state and/or federal grants to better prepare Safe Haven Hill to accomodate up to 4,000 people who would be expected to make it up the hill to the top and out of the tsunami’s reach. Plans are to level off the hilltop and provide easy vehicular and pedestrian access to shorten the amount of time people would need to climb it. The hilltop clearing and other accomodations are expected to occur in the near future. Planners say a thick ring of trees around the sides will remain to preserve the hill’s aesthetic appearance.