On May 31, 2012, three Oregon communities on the bay held their first tsunami evacuation drill, stirred to action by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated coastal towns in Japan. Coos Bay Fire Chief Stan Gibson said the vivid TV images of last year’s tsunami in Japan have made people on the Oregon Coast take the possibility much more seriously than about 10 years ago, when new signs laying out tsunami evacuation routes were greeted with complaints that they would just scare the tourists.
The biggest threat to these communities is a megaquake from the Cascadia Subduction Zone, where two plates of the Earth’s crust butt together off the coast. When they slip, they could send a 40-foot surge of water moving at the speed of a jetliner into the Oregon coast, Washington and Northern California. After feeling the quake, people have about 20 minutes to reach higher ground. Authorities advise them to walk, because roads could be impassable and power lines down. Geologic evidence shows the zone jolts on average every 300 to 600 years, and the last one was 312 years ago.
More than 9,000 people participated in the Tsunami Evacuation Drill comprised of businesses, schools and organizations. Several residents reported they simply discovered where high ground was and went as high as they could in 15 minutes.
To view of a clip of the Coos Bay tsunami drill, visit http://coostsunami.org.