Tsunami-proof building plans raise questions, stir debate

Simulated tsunami tests building designsCANNON BEACH, Ore. – It would cost twice as much and there’s no precedent anywhere in the United States for how to fund such a structure. Everyone agrees it would save lives. There’s not much doubt about that. And in light of the tragedy unfolding in Japan, it seems to make perfect sense.

It would be a new city hall, a very rugged building on concrete stilts. But it still hasn’t been built.

This debate and quandary raises awkward questions, such as how many people would die in a tsunami, how much it would cost to prevent that, what approaches would work best and who should pay for them. The debate centers on what would be the nation’s first structure designed to survive a tsunami and serve as a refuge people could run to on short notice, to get above the deadly waves.

Some would be local residents in Cannon Beach, Ore. Many others saved might be tourists from all over the nation who flock to its scenic beauty – in the recent Chilean earthquake and tsunami many of those who died were tourists.

And researchers at Oregon State University say they hope the events now taking place across the Pacific Ocean will raise new awareness about these issues and help point the way to a solution.

“We’ve been struggling with this for several years now,” said Harry Yeh, a professor of coastal engineering at OSU, international expert on tsunamis and one of the people helping community leaders in Cannon Beach to make progress toward this new building. It’s a concept that, once created, might form a model for many more such structures from Northern California to British Columbia.

Read more from OSU News & Communications

Harry Yeh’s current Sea Grant-supported tsunami research

Woods Hole fact-checks ocean radiation

The ongoing Japanese struggle to repair nuclear reactors damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has people across the Pacific concerned about the potential damage to the ocean from leaking radiation.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one of the nation’s top ocean research labs, has put together an online fact sheet about ocean radiation issues related to the Japanese disaster.

The Web site discusses different types of radiation from naturally ocurring and manmade sources, the potential for circulation by air and water, and what is known so far about the Japanese radiation releases, as well as likely effects on seafood. The page will be updated as more information becomes available.

More tsunami preparedness resources

In a news conference this morning, Oregon State Geologist Vicki McConnell pointed out that tsunamis generated by earthquakes on the other side of the Pacific give Oregonians plenty of time to evacuate  – but a similar quake off the Oregon coast, which geologists believe is inevitable, might come with as little as 15 minutes’ warning.

Nonetheless, McConnell said, coastal response to today’s devastating Japanese earthquake provides communities and emergency preparedness officials with a valuable rehearsal for something worse. Generally, officials said, warnings and evacuation went well on the coast; in the few cases where automatic warning sirens failed to trigger, emergency officials were able to manually trigger them immediately.

McConnell’s agency, the Department Of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI), has some great online resources for learning about, and preparing for, coastal earthquakes and tsunamis.

Pacific Tsunami Reminds Oregon to be Prepared

Tsunami alerts were triggered up and down the Oregon Coast this morning, following a deadly 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan.  Reverse 911 calls and emergency sirens alerted Oregon coastal residents to potentially dangerous tsunami waves created by the distant quake, and the National Weather Service has issued a tsunami advisory.  Oregon Sea Grant features a short film on tsunami preparedness: “Reaching Higher Ground: The 3 Things You Need to Know” (3:09).

To learn more about what causes a tsunami, check out our longer film, “Reaching Higher Ground” (14:02).

Oregon’s wave expertise attracts energy startup

A Texas company with a novel approach to generating electricity from ocean waves is testing its devices at OSU’s Hinsdale Wave Research Lab, with an eye toward full-scale ocean testing in the future.

Texas-based Neptune Wave Energy was drawn to Oregon by the expertise and scientific resources of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, a joint effort of OSU and Washington State University.

Oregon Sea Grant, which helped fund early proof-of-concept research on wave-generated energy and is currently looking at the human dimensions of wave energy, is among the local partners in the Center, which is working on establishing an off-shore testing site near Newport that could be used by Neptune and other companies.

Read the whole story from Sustainable Business Oregon.

Learn more about Oregon Sea Grant’s efforts in wave energy.

Video report from KGW TV: