Surviving The Big One

Could a tsunami happen in the Bay Area?

Surviving The Big One

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — One of the best parts of living or visiting the Bay Area is walking along the bay, but if a tsunami were to hit, that could put you in a danger zone and if you see a blue sign, it means you are in danger — and you  should evacuate and head to higher grounds.

“The first wave that comes in could not be the largest and we don’t know how long it will last. it’s important people get out of the danger zone as soon as possible,” said Mary Ellen Caroll, executive director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management. 

Past tsunami’s to hit the Bay Area have been caused by earthquakes from all over the world. 

KRON4’s Sara Stinson sat down with Steven Ward, a UC Santa Cruz research geophysicist, who says the type of earthquake that causes a tsunami in the Bay Area is one that makes a lot of up and down motion such as a thrust earthquake and it has to have a high magnitude.

A tsunami caused by an earthquake in Japan back in 2011 destroyed parts of a harbor in Santa Cruz.

“The reason California got hit so badly by that one is because most of the energy from that tsunami came right towards us,” Ward said. 

Coastal cities are more at risk than those within the bay.

“If it tries to squeeze through the Golden Gate, it’s only a mile wide so that it is really a protective element. Not a lot can get through. It may start as 10 feet high and arrive at 2 feet high,” Ward said.

But how much of a heads up would we get before tsunami hits?

Well it depends on where it’s coming from. 

“If we have an earthquake say in Cascadia starting in Mendocino starting in say Seattle maybe an hour and a half of time,” Ward said. “A more common earthquake say from Alaska we have about five hours of time. And from further away say in Chile it’s like 12 hours.”

If a tsunami was headed towards the Bay Area, each county would send out a mass notification alerting people.

If you live in walking distance to the ocean then you should have a go bag ready, but if you live in the San Francisco area and just want to stay informed during the next big disaster then it’s really easy to do so all you have to do is text 888-777 and put in your zip code.

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