Monday, March 28, 2016

FEARING THE WAVE - Pacific Northwest

"How the Pacific Northwest is preparing for a catastrophic tsunami" by Lorna Baldwin, PBS NewsHour 3/22/2016


In the small fishing and logging community of Ocosta, Washington, residents are doing something about an invisible danger lurking just miles off their coastline — one of the most dangerous seismic faults in the world.  The community agreed to raise local taxes to build North America’s first vertical tsunami evacuation shelter atop the local school’s new gymnasium.  It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can hold up to 2,000 people in the event of an earthquake and tsunami that follows.  After the quake hits, residents will only have between 15 and 25 minutes to get there before the tsunami arrives on their shores.

But how real is the threat?  The Cascadia fault sits just offshore, stretching 700 miles from Vancouver Island in Canada to northern California.  Scientists have calculated it’s overdue for a rupture and the likelihood of a large quake happening in the next 50 years is 37 percent.  FEMA estimates the number of people killed in a major quake and tsunami could reach 13,000 with a further 20,000 injured; 140,000 square miles would be affected.

The superintendent of schools in Ocosta, Paula Akerlund, said the 2011 tsunami in Japan guided their construction project.  “One of the things that we knew from Japan is that some buildings were overtopped.  So we tried to make the wall here high enough and then also I think it will serve another purpose because there will be children up here with us and they won’t really see what’s happening for awhile.”

The tsunami shelter is ready for use now with a ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled in June.

Farther up the Washington coast, the Quinault Indian Nation village of Taholah sits at the edge of the Pacific, only 6 feet above sea level.  To combat the tsunami threat and rising sea levels the tribe has a five-year plan to move to higher ground.  It’s a place the Quinault have lived for centuries and tribe president Fawn Sharp says, “Our membership sees the exciting opportunity of creating a new village and what that might look like.  But so many of our memories are here in this village and the thought of it being under water, you know, there’s a lot of trauma to that prospect that a very sacred site could no longer exist.”

From transcript:

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  The highly reinforced structure they have built isn’t just to protect the 620 students at the school.  The roof can hold nearly 2,000 people, and officials say no one would be turned away in a disaster, and the shelter will be accessible 24/7 from this point forward.

The total cost?  Just over $2 million.  And get this:  No state or federal money was used  to build it.  Locals had to vote on a bond specifically to raise their own taxes to build this, and this isn’t a wealthy community.

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