While a magnitude-7.9 earthquake in Alaska this week was too deep to unleash a tsunami, a University of Southern California researcher warned today that a similar, shallower temblor could potentially send destructive waves to California's coastline.
"Here in California, we always have to be aware that there is a tsunami threat coming from many different places. And so these types of events serve as reminders that when we see large earthquakes occurring ... we need to be aware, we need to be prepared," Patrick J. Lynett told Video News West,
Lynett, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering at USC, worked on a U.S. Geological Survey study last year that modeled how a magnitude- 9.1 earthquake could cause a tsunami that would damage California harbors and low-lying coastal areas.
He said a large quake from the Aleutian Islands could send waves that would cause flooding and strong currents in Southern California. In Northern California, there is a greater threat of very large waves and significant flooding, Lynett said.
"In particular, the local authorities in all of our coastal counties need to be ready to take action to prepare their residents for these tsunamis," Lynett said.
In Southern California, a tsunami could cause currents that are strong enough to pull ships off their moorings and cause a lot of damage to docks, he said. Southland beachgoers would not see a large breaking wave coming, according to Lynett, who said it "would look more like a gradual rise in the water in most places."
He added that coastline residents and visitors need to take note of tsunami hazard warning signs and listen to officials when they say to get off the beach.
"If you are in a beach area and there is tsunami coming that may flood the beach, you shouldn't be there," Lynett said.
According to the study, most of California's coast is protected by cliffs.
--City News Service