The eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano earlier this year created a tsunami that spread to Washington’s coasts. This may have been the first tsunami many residents of Washington had experienced, but it might not be the last. Tsunamis occur pretty frequently, with two damaging tsunamis occurring worldwide each year on average. In Washington State, there are multiple sources both near and far that can produce tsunamis that affect the state’s coastlines. The nearby Cascadia subduction zone has caused giant earthquakes and tsunamis in the past, but other crustal faults or landslides into Puget Sound have also caused tsunamis, and distant earthquakes in Alaska (or volcanoes across the Pacific!) have created tsunamis that traverse the ocean. You can read more about past tsunami events that impacted Washington here.
As residents of Washington State, and citizens of the world at large, it’s important to be aware of tsunami hazard zones and how to best prepare yourself for tsunami hazards. Whether you regularly frequent a tsunami hazard zone or not, knowing the natural warning signs of an impending tsunami can save your life. That’s exactly what happened for Tilly Smith, a 10-year-old girl from England who was on vacation in Thailand during December of 2004. Tilly noticed the ocean behaving in a strange fashion, and notified her parents that she thought a tsunami might be coming. Sure enough, her keen observations and quick thinking resulted in many lives being saved at the beach that day.
To help you and your school-aged children acquaint yourself with tsunami science and tsunami preparedness, we are releasing a Tsunami Interactive Web Guide for the content on our Tsunami webpage. The web guide is aimed at grades 6 and above, but can be adapted for other age groups.