Will a tsunami hit Charleston, SC? Below Iâ€™ve pasted portions of an article found in the Metro West Daily News (www.metrowestdailynews.com) article published on February 5, 2007, which discusses the past occurrences of tsunamis on the east coast as well as how our area (Charleston region) has prepared. The article by Russ Bynum/Associated Press discusses it:
â€œWhile tsunamis are primarily considered a threat on the Pacific Coast, emergency officials are paying closer attention to the potential for killer waves on the Atlantic Coast since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in 11 countries.
The government’s West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center now watches out for the East Coast as well. A tsunami-detection buoy monitors for sudden changes in sea level 320 miles off Charleston, S.C.
And a few local governments along the East Coast, including Liberty County, have enrolled in a National Weather Service program to prepare for the remote chance of killer waves spawning in the Atlantic.
“There is a possibility, though a very slight possibility,” said Tom Burris, emergency management director for Liberty County. “Just like a hurricane, you can talk until you’re blue in the face and people will say it ain’t going to happen here.”
On Jan. 9, Liberty County became only the ninth community on the eastern seaboard to be certified by the Weather Service as officially ready to respond to tsunamis, tidal waves caused by earthquakes or rock slides under the sea.
Also certified are Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.; Onslow County, N.C.; Norfolk, Va.; and five South Carolina communities: Charleston County, Horry County, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach.
“After the tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, it really became important that, jeez, it may be a rare event, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared for it,” said Paul Yura, warning coordination meteorologist for the Weather Service in Charleston, S.C.
According to the National Geophysical Data Center, seven tsunamis have been recorded in Atlantic and Gulf Coast states since 1886 when large waves followed earthquakes that struck Charleston, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., on the same day. No Americans died in the seven tsunamis, and most produced waves so small they could barely be detected.
Geologists say an Atlantic Coast tsunami could be triggered by the breaking of old fault lines offshore or by inland earthquakes causing an undersea landslide of sediments piled where the shallow continental shelf drops sharply into the ocean.
What isn’t known is how often such events might produce powerful tsunamis in the Atlantic our recorded history doesn’t reach back far enough, said Martitia Tuttle, a geologist in Georgetown, Maine, who studies underground deposits of sand, pebbles and other deposits swept ashore by tsunamis hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
“You want to get an idea of recurrence,” Tuttle said. “If these large events occur, let’s say, every 2,000 years, you have to go back more than that to get an idea of the repeat time.”â€
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