Gulf of Mexico Tsunamis


Gulf of Mexico Tsunamis

When most people think of tsunamis, places in southeast Asia typically spring to mind. However, a tsunami can technically happen in any large body of water that experiences a major earthquake or another cataclysmic event.

As a result, Gulf of Mexico tsunamis can occur. If a large enough one develops, a United States tsunami could affect the Gulf Coast of the country. How likely is it that such a scenario would play out? While it's not an imminent threat, it has happened in the past and could happen again.

Historical Tsunamis in the Gulf of Mexico

Tsunamis have happened in the Gulf of Mexico for centuries. In fact, tsunami footage in this part of the world exists.

Before high-tech tsunami information was available, people who lived along the gulf coast and in Caribbean nations had no way of knowing that one had occurred until it arrived on their shores. Jamaica has been pummeled by tsunamis in the past. In 1780, for example, at least 10 people died because of one.

The most recent example of a tsunami in the Gulf of Mexico happened in 1946, when a magnitude 8.1 earthquake ripped through the Dominican Republic and ultimately killed more than 1,800 people.

How Likely is a Gulf of Mexico Disaster?

For people living on the gulf coast, the possibility of a tsunami is understandably frightening. Unfortunately, there are alarmists out there who take advantage of people's fears to make them even more afraid.

During the BP oil spill, for example, there was a rumor that a massive methane gas bubble could burst and cause a killer tsunami. The tsunami speed was predicted to be extremely high. Of course, it didn't come to pass and probably never will.

What Affects Tsunami Speed and Other Factors?

By understanding the basics of how tsunamis develop, you'll quickly see that the likelihood of a major Gulf of Mexico disaster is very low.

They are typically caused by earthquakes, and earthquakes happen when tectonic plates shift. A fault line, which is the border between two tectonic plates, runs between Central American and the Lesser Antilles. Its subduction zone, which is where one plate dips beneath another, is relatively short. The shorter a subduction zone is, the less severe earthquakes are likely to be.

A comprehensive assessment of tsunami potential in the Gulf of Mexico was produced by the U.S Geologic Service in 2009 (see link below). It concluded that "there is sufficient evidence to consider submarine landslides in the Gulf of Mexico as a present-day tsunami hazard, as there are clear observations of large landslides along the continental margin of the gulf".

Stephen Nelson, Ph.D., chairman of the Tulane's Earth and Environmental Sciences Department also believes that undersea landslides along the northern slope of the Gulf could produce a tsunami. Dr. Nelson, along with the U.S.Geologic Service, has difficulty in pinpointing exactly how likely such an event would be and it seems fairly clear that landslides capable of producing significant tsunamis have not occurred with much frequency over the past few thousand years in the Gulf of Mexico.

If a tsunami happened in this part of the world, a Gulf of Mexico tsunami warning would be issued. If you live in this part of the world, make sure to heed such warnings when they occur.

How to Prepare

The following are guidelines for what you should do if one is likely in your area:

Turn on your radio to learn if there is a warning if an earthquake occurs and you are in a coastal area.

Grab your bug-out-bag and move inland to higher ground immediately and stay there.

Stay away from the beach. Never go down to the beach to watch a tsunami come in. If you can see the wave you are too close to escape it.

Its Over - What to Do

The following are guidelines for the period following:

  • Stay away from flooded and damaged areas until officials say it is safe to return.

  • Stay away from debris in the water; it may pose a safety hazard to boats and people.

  • Save yourself - not your possessions

  • Initiate your Disaster Recovery Plan