After 12 years and a pause because of the pandemic, the California Geological Survey released new tsunami hazard area maps so people can plan their evacuation routes ahead of time if a tsunami were to hit the Central Coast.
More than 150 tsunamis of varying sizes have hit California in the last 200 years. After a particularly powerful one, the California geological survey updated the way tsunami hazard maps are drawn.
“Two o'clock in the morning. That's not the time to try to figure out where to go and what to do, so you want to have that pre-planned,” said Scott Jalbert, San Luis Obispo County's emergency services manager.
The California Geological Survey released the new maps showing people whether they live in a tsunami hazard area or an area where flooding could occur from extreme tsunami events. The maps also help people plan safe evacuation routes.
Jalbert explained, “After the Japan earthquake, they learned a lot more about how tsunamis work and they actually increase the, the threshold to 50 feet, which compelled them to change their maps.”
That tsunami happened in 2011 and according to the California Geological Survey, it was the costliest disaster in modern history. It damaged harbors in California including Morro Bay. After that, the geological survey increased the threshold for tsunami hazard areas.
Rick Wilson, the senior engineering geologist and lead of the Tsunami Unit at the California Geological Survey, said, “Tsunamis are generated by what’s going on underneath the water, big earthquakes, big landslides.”
Experts say to immediately head to higher ground. Sometimes counties will have a warning hours before a tsunami hits, and other times, just minutes.
The last tsunami advisory in San Luis Obispo County happened in 2015 after an earthquake in Chile. The advisory spanned from San Luis Obispo County to Orange County.
Experts recommend compiling a go-bag with medication, pet supplies and important documents ahead of disasters like tsunamis. For people who do not have access to cars and other vehicles, they recommend coordinating with a neighbor ahead of time.