INSIDE LOOK: What You Need to Know in Case a Tsunami Approaches

(bright uplifting music) – [Bryan] Hi, I’m Bryan May with Cal OES, and we are in Ventura Harbor today and, while the setting is beautiful, it’s time to talk tsunamis. Do you know the one
thing you should never do if a tsunami was headed toward
the coast of California? We’ll answer that in a moment, but first, the last week in March is designated as Tsunami Awareness Week. With more on that and how
you can prepare yourself, here’s Robb Mayberry. – [Robb] You know Bryan,
California enjoys over 1200 miles of pristine beaches just like the one behind me here in Ventura, and while most Californians understand the potential damage that
can be caused by wildfires, earthquakes, and flooding, far fewer know the potential risk from tsunamis. (siren blares) For instance, did you know
California’s two worst tsunamis of the past century happened
in the month of March? The tsunami of 1964 killed
11 people and destroyed most of the town of Crescent
City in northern California. Although not nearly as
destructive, the Japan tsunami in 2011 caused significant
damage to California’s harbors. – [Kevin] The last big one
that impacted California was the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which came from Japan to California and caused about $100 million in damage, just to coastal
infrastructure, boats, harbors, and piers, that kind of thing. – [Robb] We caught up with
Cal OES Earthquake and Tsunami Program Manager, Kevin Miller, to find out just what areas along
California’s coastline are prone to this natural disaster and what we should know
to be better prepared. – [Kevin] It might be coming
from Alaska toward California, and you’re a south-facing
beach and you think you’re protected from something coming from the north, and you’re not, and then you might have a
wave that’s coming from Chile, and that’ll impact different harbors or coastlines than
something coming from Japan. So it just depends on
how much water is coming and what direction it’s coming from, and what your local topography
is really what’s controlling how much inundation does or doesn’t occur. – [Robb] So what are the warning signs in the event of an impending tsunami? – [Kevin] If you feel a strong or long shaking, an earthquake-type
shaking, and you’re at the beach, that would be one indicator. Another would be is if you hear a large abnormal ocean roar that you don’t expect from the ocean, and a third indicator is a draw-down abnormally of the water drawing far out. Something to remember, those are natural warnings. Don’t look for all
three of them to happen, just one of them might be
an indicator of a tsunami. If it’s a distant event,
that’s when you’ll have potentially hours of warning,
and you can get information potentially on your phone or on the radio. If there are tsunamis, I mean, if there are sirens in your area, those could be triggered as well. – [Robb] And if you encounter
one or more of these warnings, what should you do next? – [Kevin] Pretty easy
to protect yourself from by knowing where your hazard zone is, which you can find online. There are tsunami warning
signs along the coast that show how far inland these things are expected to go. In most cases in California, you should be okay above 20 to 50 feet. In far Northern California, it may be a little bit higher
north of Cape Mendocino. – [Robb] Thankfully, we do not see tsunamis often on the West Coast. But as you can see, when they do happen, they have the capability
of being destructive and in some cases, deadly. – [Kevin] If you have a
subduction zone right off coast, you may only have 10 or 15 minutes to get to that high ground, so practicing your route to safety with your community, with
your family, by yourself, and knowing what that route would be on a sunny day like today, is
a good thing to have in place. – [Robb] In the event you have
to evacuate due to a tsunami, make sure you follow the evacuation routes away from the ocean. You don’t have to go that
far to get to a safe place. In fact, if you look behind me, you can see the ocean right down the way. Back to you Bryan. – [Bryan] All right, thanks Robb. Now back to our initial question, what is the one thing
you really shouldn’t do if a tsunami were headed
toward the coast of California. (boat engine roars) Born and raised in Ventura County, John Higgens knows these waters
like the back of his hand. – [John] Hi guys, I just want to remind you there’s larger-than-average surf, so when you come out, when
you come in the harbor, really try to stay in the middle. – [Bryan] In his 23 years with
the Ventura Harbor District, the last five as Harbor Master, Higgens has pretty much seen it all. – [John] The first time that
we experienced a tsunami, I would say we did not
see the drastic drop of the sea level like you’ve heard of in some of the Pacific Islands or in Asia when they’ve had those tsunamis where the water retreats back
and it’s nothing but barren bottom of the ocean. (waves lapping) – [Tsunami Witness] Wow, it’s coming in! In our harbor, there
was very little warning, if anything it was coming, but fortunately, it wasn’t a big wave that came. It was just an influx of water, a consistent surge of water akin to a river coming in the harbor
continuously for a period of time, and then leaving the harbor continuously for a period of time. – [Bryan] Back to back tsunamis
in 2010 and 2011 turned out to be teachable moments for
Higgens and Ventura Harbor. – [John] The tsunami didn’t
happen in five minutes and it was done. The tsunami happened
over a period of time. We had several different events, and in the Japan case it
lasted for over 12 hours, these individual events,
so patience was key. – [Bryan] Which leads us to the one thing John Higgens recommends
you not do if a tsunami were heading towards California. – [John] I would highly
recommend, if you’re not at the Harbor, don’t come to the Harbor. I had people in each of
those instances saying, I’m in Los Angeles or I’m in Bakersfield, should I come to the
Harbor and take my boat and go out in the ocean? And I said, no, no, no. – [Bryan] When the next
tsunami warning comes in, and it will, Higgens knows from experience the protocol he is to follow. – [John] I typically will get a call from our Ventura County
Office of Emergency Services, who is tied in with Cal OES
and the Tsunami Warning Center. – [Bryan] He also knows from
experience the simple measures those in the tsunami zone should follow. – [John] It is as simple
as five minutes into town. Everyone knows that there’s Starbucks, there’s grocery stores, there’s hospitals, there’s movie theaters, there’s parks. There’s a number of different
things that can stimulate you and keep you entertained
for a period of time, and that’s on top of
being assured your safety. When they go into the ocean,
there is none of that. They’re going into what is
akin to the old Wild West. There’s is no resources out
there, there’s no gas station, there’s no Starbucks,
there’s no movie theater, there isn’t a hospital off shore, there isn’t an ambulance. – [Bryan] If you would like
more information on what to do in the event of a tsunami,
you can go to, and while you’re there,
there’s a list of events that are taking place
all across California for our Tsunami Awareness Week. Again, that’s the last week of March. For all of us at the
California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, I’m Bryan May. Thanks for watching. – [Announcer] Go to to learn more. Find out if your home,
school, or workplace are in a tsunami hazard or evacuation zone. Understand the difference
between a tsunami watch, advisory, or warning and what
you should do before, during, and after a tsunami strikes. (upbeat music)

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