Updated Tsunami Flooding Maps Spark Need for New Mitigation Plans

Inundation map of Kodiak. Via UAF Alaska Earthquake Center
Inundation map of Kodiak. Via UAF Alaska Earthquake Center

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Tsunamis can strike without warning, which makes it vital to always be prepared for them, and one step Kodiak residents can take is to figure out whether the location of their house makes them vulnerable.

Representatives from NOAA, the State of Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks were in Kodiak last week to share new tsunami inundation maps, which show how flooding would affect different locations. They say they met with officials, such as the police and fire department, and went over what Kodiak residents should do in the case of a tsunami.

Cindi Preller, the tsunami program manager for NOAA’s National Weather Service Alaska Region, says one issue they discussed was what fishermen should do with their boats. She said it’s best to leave to the vessels and find a safe spot on land.

“One of the aspects that we can almost guarantee is pretty wild, crazy currents, unpredictable water behavior, whirlpools, gyres, and a tsunami’s currents are so unbelievable strong, they’re not typical. We have a lot of hardy fisher people, right? And they know how to handle the water, but the water plus a tsunami is not something anybody is used to handling.”

Preller says they can predict tsunami activity up to a point when it’s in the ocean, but not how it’ll interact with the land once it hits.

She says the UAF team has been reevaluating the tsunami hazard for Kodiak and updating it from the mapping of the 1964 tsunami, and the city needs to put together a new mitigation plan that incorporates the latest information.

And Preller says it’s important for people in vulnerable areas, like Kodiak, not to underestimate the chance of a tsunami.

Louise Fode, the warning coordination meteorologist for the NOAA Anchorage Forecast office, says residents would need to act fast if they felt a severe earthquake.

“If you felt the ground shaking for more than 20 seconds or it shook so hard that you couldn’t stand up, that would indicate to us that it’s strong enough that there could be a potential tsunami, there could be landslides, and we recommend that people start to evacuate before they even hear the warning sirens.”

She and her colleagues advise residents to keep at least seven days of supplies on hand. You can more information on ready.alaska.gov.

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