Tsunami Warnings

Tsunami warnings are incredibly important to those who live within range of the ocean coast. They can help avoid untold loss of life by letting people know a tsunami is inbound and providing them enough time to safely evacuate.

According to National Geographic, "A tsunami is not a single wave but a series of waves, also known as a wave train. The first wave in a tsunami is not necessarily the most destructive."

Here is a general overview of how tsunami warnings operate:

  • International in Scope - The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has 26 separate nations, all of which are members and participate in the monitoring and warning process.

  • Warning vs. Watch - Both tsunami warnings and tsunami watches can be issued; watches are cautionary, where warnings are used when officials believe there is a real possibility of a tsunami.

  • Evacuation Route -You should investigate several possible routes out of your municipality and move on to higher ground. You need alternate choices in case of traffic jams or other problems that may occur during a hurried evacuation.

  • Disaster Preparedness - Having a disaster preparedness kit already assembled when tsunami warnings are called will help you quickly and safely evacuate the area.

There are natural tsunami signs to watch for if you live in a coastal area.

  • For a tsunami associated with an earthquake, you will feel the ground shaking and rolling. This may last for a minute or more. There may not be time for an official warning and a tsunami may happen quickly, so be very cautious.

  • If you see a sudden rise and fall of the water near the shoreline, this is a strong indicator of an approaching tsunami. Head to higher ground immediately.

  • If you hear loud or unusual noises from the sea, such as a roaring sound, this is also an indication that a tsunami could be heading toward land. Leave the area immediately and seek higher ground.

If you live in the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) handles the warning process using the emergency broadcast system. In case a tsunami does strike, turn your radio to an official NOAA broadcast and await further instruction.

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