Friday, April 23, 2010

Get Ready Mailbag: Tsunamis can be an unexpected coastal danger

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an e-mail to

Q. What exactly is a tsunami? What I can do to be prepared in case I ever experience one?

A. A tsunami is a series of huge waves that happen after an undersea disturbance, like an earthquake, volcano eruption or landslide. From the area where the tsunami begins, waves move outward in all directions. Tsunamis can move hundreds of miles per hour in the ocean and then crash into land with waves as high as 100 feet or more.

The massive earthquake in Chile in early 2010 set off tsunami warnings across the Pacific, including warnings in Hawaii. Fortunately, the waves were less destructive than feared.

A tsunami can strike almost anywhere along the U.S. coastline. And though they may not damage every coastline they strike, all tsunamis are potentially dangerous. The most destructive tsunamis in the United States have occurred along the Pacific coast. So pay particular attention if you are along the shores of Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington or Alaska.

If you are ever on the beach and notice that the water recedes from the shoreline, move away immediately. This is a sign that a tsunami is coming.

If you are in a coastal area and you experience an earthquake, turn on your radio to learn if there is a tsunami warning. If there is a warning and officials say to evacuate, do so immediately and follow your evacuation plan. Get away from the shoreline right away and move to higher ground.

Knowing how to prepare for a tsunami is the best way to stay safe in an unlikely event that you experience one.

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