Chile Tsunami – Feb 27, 2010


In the middle of the night, 500 lives were
lost to a killer tsunami caused by a great earthquake off the coast of Chile. At Talcahuano, near the epicenter of the earthquake,
the tsunami arrived within 30 minutes, with water flooding much of the town’s coastline. The bright blue indicates the coastal areas
where the NOAA model predicted tsunami flooding. After the tsunami, flooding damage was found
in the white hashed areas. The port of Talcahuano suffered major damage
from multiple tsunami waves estimated to be up to 19 feet high. Tsunami inundation reached miles inland in
some locations. The death toll would have been much higher
if the Chilean coastal communities had not been properly educated, with evacuation signs
providing pathways to safety. As the tsunami was flooding Talcahuano, it
was radiating away from the coast. As the waves passed over a tsunami detection
buoy, data were transmitted from the buoy to the tsunami forecasting centers, where
they were incorporated into computer models to provide accurate forecasts. As the tsunami travels across the ocean, the
waves interact with the sea floor terrain and neighboring coastlines. Notice the complexity of the tsunami wave
pattern as it interacts with the seafloor. One way to simplify the interpretation of
this complex wave field is to compute the tsunami energy pattern shown on this map. The red colors indicate where the maximum
force is directed. Notice that Hawaii is NOT in a high energy
area, and will NOT experience major tsunami damage. Eleven hours before the tsunami arrived in
Hawaii, this flooding forecast was computed for Hilo. Areas of flooding forecast for Hilo Bay are
indicated in blue. The forecast predicted flooding along the banks of the Wailoa river
with areas of Hilo Bay experiencing tsunami induced currents exceeding 1 knot. This video footage shows tsunami flooding
and currents on the Wailoa River in Hilo, Hawaii. Historically, tsunamis have occurred on most
of the world’s coastlines. If you are near the epicenter of an earthquake, there may
not be time for an official warning. So if you are on the beach or near the shoreline,
and you feel the earthquake, see the water withdraw, or hear a loud noise like a jet
plane, evacuate immediately to high ground, following tsunami evacuation signs.

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