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Earthquake and Tsunami Public Information meeting offers strategies for survival

Japanese Tsunami 2011 A similar wall of water could sweep through the Oregon Coast

Japanese Tsunami 2011
A similar wall of water could sweep through the Oregon Coast

Residents reviewing preparedness information

Residents reviewing preparedness information

Attendance was less than expected despite major publicity campaign.

Attendance was less than expected despite major publicity campaign.

It was probably due to the fact that earthquakes and tsunamis are not everyone’s favorite topic coupled with the fact that it was a beautiful sunny day on the Oregon Coast that trimmed the number of Newport area residents attending a comprehensive tsunami information meeting Saturday at the Agate Beach Best Western.

But for those who attended, there was a lot to learn and some not-so-concealed-words of encouragement from state geologist George Priest. Priest said the big concern, of course, is the Cascadia Earthquake waiting to happen off the Oregon Coast, with it’s powerful shaking and following tsunami. Priest said although there is ample evidence that some tsunamis in the distant past have been super-tsunamis with 80 foot tidal surges, there is an 80% chance that if we do get a tsunami, it’s likely to be about half that high. But Priest quickly added, “that’s still a large tsunami.” Priest said distant tsunamis from Japan, Indonesia and Alaska offer sometimes many hours of warning for people to flee tsunami inundations zones and reach higher ground.

Priest explained that a Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake will shake violently for up to three minutes, which will seem like a lifetime time to most of us. But when it’s over everyone should immediately head for higher ground. He said residents living in a tsunami zone will have 15 to 20 minutes to get to that higher ground and then make their way to official “Assembly Areas.” Those routes and locations are clearly indicated on the tsunami zone maps which are now available at Newport City Hall and at the main Newport Fire Station at NW 10th and NW Nye.

Priest said that if a tsunami rolls in and then recedes, by no means should people try to immediately return to their homes. He said the Japanese tsunami of 2011 was actually a series of tidal surges that stretched out for nearly 12 hours which gradually subsided. He said the biggest wave of the day was actually the second surge, not the first.

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The tsunami meeting also offered a wide array of earthquake preparedness devices from automatic natural gas shut-off valves to instructions on how to properly hang pictures and other wall decorations, properly secure bookcases, large screen TVs, appliances and cupboard doors. There’s a world of things we all can do to help us ride out “the big one.”

They strongly urged having what are called “grab and run” kits which involve the bare necessities for getting out and up to higher ground. Priest said the most often overlooked “necessity” is a flashlight that you can strap to your head or a helmet. He said, “If the earthquake and tsunami strike at night, you’re going to need to see. You’ll need BOTH HANDS FREE to grab what you need and to guide loved ones, perhaps friends and neighbors, outside and uphill to higher ground.

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For those who find themselves outside the tsunami inundation zone, a lot of the same issues face you in that you’ll still need that flashlight to navigate your home, regardless of what shape it’s in, and to ensure everyone’s safe. But if there are injuries, the first aid kit will also come in handy. Because of all this, Priest said you must keep these emergency tools in a place that is likely to survive a big shaker. As for the flashlight strapped to your head, make sure it’s velcro’d to your bedframe within easy reach because you’ll need that FIRST after an earthquake.

Taking note that there were a lot of empty chairs at the tsunami meeting Saturday, Priest said “Those of you who came are basically responsible for sharing what you’ve learned here. Spread the word that surviving an earthquake and tsunami is easier if you prepare.” He directed attendees to the statewide earthquake and tsunami preparedness website www.OregonTsunami.org.
There is also the Lincoln County Disaster Preparedness website at:
http://www.lincolncountysheriff.net/emergency/

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Residents are also encouraged to consider volunteering with the Community Emergency Response Team, or “CERT” for short. CERT volunteers learn it all and see it all by helping residents deal with emergencies, conduct community education and emergency and disaster preparedness. For information on becoming a Newport member of CERT call 541-265-8720 or via email at D.Sawyer@NewportOregon.gov

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