Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tsunami Warning Signs

There are traditional and fairly well-known warning signs that a tsunami will hit. A little girl on vacation on an Island during the Asia Pacific tsunami saved about a hundred lives by paying attention to these and a few less well-known warning tsunami signs. She shared them with her parents who warned others. They all evacuated immediately and it saved their lives. Over 200,000 other people died in that tsunami.

The usual signs to look for are:
There is a sudden low tide that is not expected.
The ocean withdraws suddenly. Some people report a "sucking" noise as the ocean retreats.
The girl who saved 100 lives, noticed strange froth on the ocean and a "sizzling" noise coming from the froth.
Sea birds often fly inland and refuse to land.
Elephants headed inland before the Asian Pacific tsunami. They crashed into things in their haste.

Some of the people who died in that tsunami were down on the beach catching flopping grounded fish, or examining the exposed sea bed.

You do not have a long time before the wave from a withdrawn sea, getting ready for a tsunami, comes back and hits. When you see the ocean suddenly retreat you have to move fast to higher ground to save your life. Tsunamis are very fast. You will not be able to outrun the tsunami if you wait until you see it coming.

I took these from a site that helps you live through tsunamis:


    • 1
      Be conscious of earthquakes if you are in an area near the ocean. A tsunami is the displacement of massive amounts of water, often caused by an earthquake below -- or near -- the ocean. Pay attention to the news, not just in your area but worldwide. Earthquakes thousands of miles away can cause a potentially deadly tsunami at your location.
    • 2
      Listen. Many survivors have repeated that tsunamis make a sound, similar to a freight train, upon their approach.
    • 3
      Watch water levels. If there is a noticeable and rapid fall in the coastal waters and it's not time for low tide, head inland immediately. Think of how waves work: Water first pulls back, then returns with force. An excessive or unusual retreat of water in the ocean is the biggest indication of a tsunami. Many people died in the Indian Ocean tsunami because they went to observe the bare sea floor after the ocean retreated.
    • 4
      Stay away from the coastline. The first wave of a tsunami is not always the most dangerous, so keep away until reputable authorities give the all-clear. Do not assume that because a tsunami is small in one place it will be the same size at all locations, as the waves vary. And don't assume that you're automatically safe inland: Tsunamis can travel up rivers and streams that connect to the ocean. Stay away from all bodies of water until an all-clear is given.
    • 5
      Trust your gut. If the water doesn't feel or look right to you, even without feeling an earthquake, head inland. There may be as little as five minutes from the first warning sign of a tsunami to its actual hit. If you do feel an earthquake, do not wait for an official warning as authorities may have no time to issue one.

The Facts

  • Tsunamis that strike coastal location in the Pacific Ocean Basin are most always caused by earthquakes. These earthquakes might occur far away or near where you live.
  • Some tsunamis can be very large. In coastal areas their height can be as great as 30 feet or more (100 feet in extreme cases), and they can move inland several hundred feet.
  • All low lying coastal areas can be struck by tsunamis.
  • A tsunami consists of a series of waves. Often the first wave may not be the largest. The danger from a tsunami can last for several hours after the arrival of the first wave.
  • Tsunamis can move faster than a person can run.
  • Sometimes a tsunami causes the water near shore to recede, exposing the ocean floor. The force of some tsunamis is enormous. Large rocks weighing several tons along with boats and other debris can be moved inland hundreds of feet by the tsunami wave activity. Homes and other buildings are destroyed. All this material and water move with great force and can kill or injure people.
  • Tsunamis can occur at any time, day or night.
  • Tsunamis can travel up rivers and streams that lead to the ocean.

What You Should Do

Be aware of tsunami facts. This knowledge could save your life! Share this knowledge with your relatives and friends. It could save their lives!
  • If you are in school and you hear there is a tsunami warning, you should follow the advice of teachers and other school personnel.
  • If you are at home and hear there is a tsunami warning, you should make sure you entire family is aware of the warning. Your family should evacuate your house if you live in a tsunami evacuation. Move in an orderly, calm and safe manner to the evacuation site or to any safe place outside your evacuation zone. Follow the advice of local emergency and law enforcement authorities.
  • If you are at the beach or near the ocean and you feel the earth shake, move immediately to higher ground. DO NOT wait for a tsunami warning to be announced. Stay away from rivers and streams that lead to the ocean as you would stay away from the beach and ocean if there is a tsunami. A regional tsunami from a local earthquake could strike some areas before a tsunami warning could be announced.
  • Tsunamis generated in distant locations will generally give people enough time to move to higher ground. For locally generated tsunamis, where you might feel the ground shake, you may only have a few minutes to move to higher ground.
  • High, multi-story, reinforced concrete hotels are located in many low-lying coastal areas. The upper floors of these hotels can provide a safe place to find refuge should there be a tsunami warning and you cannot move quickly inland to higher ground. Local Civil Defense procedures may, however, not allow this type of evacuation in your area. Homes and small buildings located in low lying coastal areas are not designed to withstand tsunami impacts. Do not stay in these structures should there be a tsunami warning.
  • Offshore reefs and shallow areas may help break the force of tsunami waves, but large and dangerous waves can still be threat to coastal residents in these areas. Staying away fro all low-lying coastal areas is the safest advice when there is a tsunami warning.

If You Are on a Boat or Ship

  • Since tsunami wave activity is imperceptible in the open ocean, do not return to port if you are at sea and a tsunami warning has been issued for your area. Tsunamis can cause rapid changes in water level and unpredictable dangerous currents in harbors and ports.
  • If there is time to move your boat or ship from port to deep water (after you know a tsunami warning has been issued), you should weigh the following considerations:
    • Most large harbors and ports are under the control of a harbor authority and/or a vessel traffic system. These authorities direct operations during periods of increased readiness (should a tsunami be expected), including the forced movement of vessels if deemed necessary. Keep in contact with the authorities should a forced movement of vessels be directed.
    • Smaller ports may not be under the control of a harbor authority. If you are aware there is a tsunami warning and you have time to move your vessel to deep water, then you may want to do so in an orderly manner, in consideration of other vessels. Owners of small boats may find it safest to leave their boat at the pier and physically move to higher ground, particularly in the event of a locally generated tsunami. Concurrent severe weather conditions (rough seas outside of safe harbor) could present a greater hazardous situation to small boats, so physically moving yourself to higher ground may be the only option.
    • Damaging wave activity and unpredictable currents can effect harbors for a period of time following the initial tsunami impact on the coast. Contact the harbor authority before returning to port making sure to verify that conditions in the harbor are safe for navigation and berthing.
As dangerous as tsunamis are, they do not happen very often. You should not let this natural hazard diminish your enjoyment of the beach and ocean. But, if you think a tsunami may be coming, the ground shakes under your feet or you hear there is a warning, tell your relatives and friends, and move quickly to higher ground.
Return to Tsunami, The Great Wave

Here are more links about preparedness for tsunamis:




  • Always keep an emergency kit containing medical supplies, any necessary medications, food, water, a battery-operated radio and even some basic tools. In the event of a tsunami or other disaster, it may save your life.
  • Research any foreign destination you plan to spend time at. Look at the weather and the area's history, not just hotels and restaurants. That will tell you whether the location is at risk for tsunamis.
  • If you're in a boat on the open sea, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advises you not to return to shore upon hearing a tsunami warning. Tsunamis cause dangerous changes in water levels at the shore, but are imperceptible in the open ocean.

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