Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tsunami Policy: Newport Oregon and Oregon State University - What will they do?

Oregon Live noted that that the head the Oregon State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries sent a letter to Oregon State University about tsunami hazards in Newport, Oregon ( geologist_warns).

The letter is consistent with Oregon State Law 455.447 ( which states "Developers of new essential facilities, hazardous facilities and major structures described in subsection (1)(a)(E), (b) and (c) of this section and new special occupancy (my emphasis) structures described in subsection (1)(e)(A), (D) and (F) of this section that are located in an identified tsunami inundation zone shall consult with the State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries for assistance in determining the impact of possible tsunamis on the proposed development and for assistance in preparing methods to mitigate risk at the site of a potential tsunami. Consultation shall take place prior to submittal of design plans to the building official for final approval."

Oregon State University is planning building a major marine studies facility within a tsunami hazard area. While it is likely not possible to build all necessary facilities associated with marine activities outside tsunami hazard areas, the concerned building is for up to 500 people in a known tsunami hazard area and includes classrooms, labs and offices. The 500 number is the threshold for special occupancy structures per the Oregon State Law.  The facility is within a hazard posed even by a distance source tsunami and a local tsunami generated by the subduction zone along the Oregon coast (and Washington and northern California). The estimated wave height from a local subduction event is 43 feet. With between 10 to 15 minutes to get to higher ground, the race will be close for some given the one half mile distance that will need to be covered.

This image is modified slightly from the original. I had missed the hill small hill that was closer to the science center site - Lockwood (see comments) clarified the escape route.

 It will be interesting to follow how this consultation will proceed. Newport has been an enthusiastic community for marine sciences and was awarded the NOAA facility 5 years ago much to the dismay of Washington State after years of NOAA being in Seattle and the ever hopeful Port of Bellingham that took a crack at attracting NOAA. I would note that despite the NOAA contribution to tsunami hazard mapping, the 2-story NOAA office building will also require a rapid one mile evacuation.

It might be worth taking a look at the view of a 43-foot tsunami wave encountering an essential public service building:

The tsunami surges toward the roof of the three-story disaster management building of the Minami-Sanriku town office, in a photo captured by Nobuo Kato, at 3:34 p.m. on March 11. (Photo by the town of Minami-Sanriku)

Read Nobua Kato's story HERE


Lockwood said...

The evacuation site is actually at the south end of the bay bridge- it shows up well in the lead photo in the OregonLive article. Here's the evacuation route sign at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, near where the section of the so-called tsunami dock is on display.

Dan McShane said...

Thanks Lockwood - missed that hill when checking spot elevations on Google earth. Corrected the image and distance. Is the hill a tree covered sand dune?

Lockwood said...

It's isolated in an odd way- there are no other dunes in the area that large- but that would be my guess. I don't have the sense it's anywhere large enough to provide enough room for all the people that would need to cram onto it. And if it *is* a dune, the danger of washing away some of that minimal area is very real. The bridge is not likely to survive a quake (few of OR's bridges were designed with that in mind), which makes the whole scenario even more unsettling. My preparedness plan is not to be in that area when the quake hits.

susan said...

Is there stratigraphic evidence indicating past earthquakes or tsunamis in the Newport area? Surely someone has looked at cutbanks around there. Or off-shore deposits.

Dan McShane said...

This OSU site has a fair number of papers.

The evidence has been found all along the coast from Mendecio to Vancouver Island as well as Discovery Bay on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Lots of turbidite data as well which are among the papers listed at the OSU site.

susan said...

Thank you!