DOWNTOWN — In recognition of National Tsunami Preparedness Week, March 24-30, the Santa Monica Office of Emergency Management would like to remind everyone to take the time to check their emergency kits, update their family emergency plan and be informed of the hazards that may exist in the community.
In 2013, Santa Monica was designated a “Tsunami Ready” community by the National Weather Service. This designation was earned by Santa Monica because of the actions taken during the tsunami threat in Southern California following the devastating earthquake off the coast of Japan on March 12, 2011. The Santa Monica Pier and beach parking lots were closed for several hours. Small surges of ocean water hit the coast, but no significant damage was reported here.
Santa Monica has an approved Tsunami Response Plan which can be implemented in the event of a tsunami warning or alert. Additionally, the city has a notification system in place to alert those who may be in the potential tsunami inundation zone.
Santa Monica has installed dozens of tsunami evacuation route and tsunami hazard zone signs near the coast where a tsunami event would have the most impact. For more information about tsunami preparedness in Santa Monica, visit the OEM website at www.smgov.net and search “tsunami.”
What would happen if a tsunami hit Santa Monica?
Not much thanks to natural protection.
Experts say the city sits above sea level with a large swath of beach and bluffs acting as natural barriers protecting residents, but cautioned people to stay prepared in case of a tsunami, or a series of ocean waves generated by changes in the sea floor, most likely because of a major earthquake.
In a study released in September by the U.S. Geological Survey, researchers looked at what effects a tsunami would have on the Californian coastline by simulating a 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Alaska. The study was a partnership between federal, state, academic, and private organizations to develop a statewide tsunami scenario.
Rick Wilson, senior engineering geologist at the California Geological Survey, who was involved in the study, said the cliffs that are around Santa Monica Bay help protect a lot of the inland areas.
Despite a natural barrier against high waves, a downside is it doesn’t take much of a tsunami to flood the beach, said Wilson. That means bad news for visitors.
On any given day at the Santa Monica State Beach there can be thousands of people enjoying the sun and surf. On holidays, those numbers tend to double or triple.
“That’s a really high population to evacuate in a short amount of time,” Wilson said.