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Best tsunami protection? Higher ground

Posted June 3rd, 2010 by simmonto

Here in the PNW, we live with the threat of earthquakes and tsunamis. But those who don’t live on the coast may not fully appreciate the challenge of surviving a big quake-driven wave: In some areas, warning time of an approaching wall of water could be as brief as five minutes.

Scientists at OSU’s Hinsdale Wave Laboratory — the largest wave modeling facility in the Western Hemisphere — are helping coastal communities come to terms with the tsunami challenge. Most recently, they’re working with the city of Cannon Beach, Ore., on a new City Hall building that would double as a tsunami vertical evacuation structure, allowing individuals who can’t get out of harm’s way to get to at least 50 feet above sea level and thereby survive the surge.

AP writer Abby Haight was one of many media types who made their way to Hinsdale for a first-hand look at wave tests on a scale model of the structure and Cannon Beach in late May. Her story in the Seattle Times and elsewhere documents efforts to create the $4-million City Hall building, a facility that could save as many as 1,500 lives in the event of a big wave.

Hinsdale, as always, is an irresistible target for media. Since the 2004 massive tsunami tragedy in Sumatra, it has drawn reporters from around the planet covering for major television networks, big print outlets, national radio systems and more. Its unique capabilities to model all varieties of waves and its support by key partners (National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research Research, other universities) ensure that whatever work is taking place there, it’s almost always important for emergency preparedness purposes and visually interesting.


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