See the update at the end of this post on things you can do to protect against tsunami damage.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 26, 7:09 A.M.: If you live in Huntington Beach, and especially along the coast there, you'd be wise to figure out a quick route to reach higher ground.
That's the advice of Lucy Jones, Southern California media's go-to expert on earthquakes and tsunamis.
Jones, who is with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), spoke at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach Monday night as part of National Tsunami Preparedness Week, City News Service reports.
Sudden 5- to 10-foot increases in sea level would put low-lying areas like Huntington Beach and Venice Beach most at risk, Jones and her USGS team recently discovered.
Their recent federally funded study modeled a magnitude 9.2 Alaskan earthquake that struck 50 years ago and caused California's largest-recorded tsunami event. The study estimated about 90,000 people live in that tsunami's inundation zone today.
"If you are at the beach and you feel strong earthquake shaking, leave the beach," Jones advised. "The downside is you miss a day at the beach, the upside is your life."
The experts conceded tsunamis are rare here, but that does not mean residents should not prepare for the worst. City News Service quotes USC Tsunami Center's Patrick Lynett saying Southern California's ports and harbors are at risk from earthquakes and tsunamis since either/or can produce strong, damaging currents.
"I think for most people, tsunamis are a second thought," Lynett says, "but for people who live next to the coast, they can't be a second thought."
UPDATE, MARCH 27, 8:37 A.M.: Today marks the 50th anniversary of a 9.2 magnitude earthquake that struck offshore of Alaska and caused a tsunami that spread down the West Coast and resulted in 12 deaths in Crescent City. Orange County was not spared, as the 1964 tsunami inundated parts of Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, damaging harbors and flooding homes and businesses on the coast. To remind the public of the danger, the Orange County Board of Supervisors proclaimed this Tsunami Preparedness Week, and county agencies passed along these tips:
* Develop family and business emergency plans, including creating a communication strategy and selecting a place to meet on higher ground.
* Not only residents and workers along the coast but beachgoers should "should pay extreme attention to tsunami warnings and advisories that are publicly posted, as well as beach closure barricades and signs."
* If you haven't already, join the county's AlertOC warning system (at AlertOC.com) to register your home and cell phones, business lines and e-mail addresses so you can receive vital messages during emergencies.
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* Obviously, protect yourself during an earthquake (drop, cover and hold on).
* Move to high ground or inland as soon as you can and stay there; high waves from a tsunami may arrive for eight hours or longer.
* Return to the coast only after local officials announce it is safe to do so.