A major earthquake at the Seattle Fault could cause tsunamis as high as 42 feet to hit Seattle’s coast within minutes, according to a new government-produced study.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources study found that tsunamis would reach the shoreline in less than three minutes along the fault line in places like Bainbridge Island, Elliott Bay, and Alki Point.
The Seattle Fault, which runs east to west, crosses downtown Seattle and the Puget Sound. The government agency said the fault line caused several earthquakes across the region, although the last quake occurred about 1,100 years ago.
When announcing the study’s results, officials stressed that the chance of the models coming true during the lifetime of the current population is low, but said that residents should remain aware of how to respond given the dramatic fallout of such a disaster.
“Most of the time, when we think of a tsunami, we think of our offshore coast and our communities along the Pacific Ocean,” said Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz.
“But there is a long history of earthquakes on faults in Puget Sound,” she added. “While the history of earthquakes and tsunamis along the Seattle Fault is less frequent than the Cascadia subduction zone, the impacts can be enormous. That is why it is so important that these communities have the information they need to prepare and respond.”
In one simulation of a 7.5-magnitude earthquake, the group’s models showed that tsunami waves could reach 42 feet at Seattle’s Great Well, which is in the city’s downtown area along the coastline.
“We will continue to ensure that our Office of Emergency Management — and all of our departments — are better equipped to respond to emergencies and natural disasters, while also strengthening our infrastructure and building a resilient city now and into the future,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell.
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According to the study, which did not take into account the phases of the tides, tsunamis can make their way inland for more than three hours after a major earthquake.
“The ground shaking will serve as your warning of a possible tsunami on the way,” said Maximilian Dixon, hazard and awareness program supervisor for the state Department of Emergency Management.
“Make sure you know where the nearest high ground is and the quickest way to get there. Get signed up for tsunami and local alerts.”
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