Washington state says dozens of vertical evacuation structures are needed on the coast for tsunamis

The Washington State Emergency Management Division released an assessment finding that dozens of vertical structures are needed on the outer coast to ensure people can safely evacuate from a tsunami in time. 

Vertical evacuation structures are designed to withstand an earthquake, aftershocks, liquefaction and multiple tsunami waves. They can be included as part of a new building or be a standalone tower. Evacuation structures have performed successfully in Japan and have also been built in New Zealand.

The assessment looked at evacuation structure needs for Clallam, Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties. The purpose of the assessment was to analyze potential sites for vertical evacuation structures using walk-time estimates based on a tsunami from a 9.0 magnitude earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Along many parts of Washington’s outer coast, it can take an hour or more to walk to high ground or out of the tsunami inundation zone.

In the event of a large Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, people on the outer coast may only have 10 to 15 minutes once the ground stops shaking to reach high ground before a tsunami arrives, according to the Emergency Management Division. 

RELATED: New tsunami simulations paint dire picture for WA coast

According to the assessment, Pacific County needs between 25 and 40 structures; Grays Harbor needs between 30 and 42 structures; and Clallam County needs one to three structures, depending on location choices.

An assessment is not scheduled for the Puget Sound because in a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, studies have shown residents would have at least an hour or more to get to high ground before the first tsunami wave would arrive.

"Now that this assessment has been completed, Washington has a much more accurate idea of how much artificial high ground it will take to ensure the most vulnerable communities on the outer coast can quickly evacuate in the event of a Cascadia tsunami. Local jurisdictions can use these findings when they apply through WA EMD for grant funding through FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) hazard mitigation grant program. Projects that design or construct tsunami evacuation structures have a good chance of being funded if their plan is realistic and feasible," the Emergency Management Division said.

To learn more about funding for your community, click here

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