Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deadly Waves

Deep in the ocean, the earth's crust shifts ever so slightly, and thousands of miles away the warning is issued about the potential for a deadly tsunami. It happened again just today.

After the 2004 tsunami that had its epicenter near Sumatra, Indonesia then spread out and killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries that rim the Indian Ocean, nobody takes an under-sea earthquake for granted anymore. And with good reason. Today's 8.0 quake that snapped the ocean floor about 125 miles from Samoa almost instantly claimed more than 150 lives, and the counting hasn't stopped yet. The energy wave from a tsunami can travel through deep water at an incredible speed of more than 600 miles per hour, so the Samoa tsunami struck the islands in a matter of minutes. No time for a warning.

But a tsunami can cross an entire ocean in a matter of hours, so this is never just a local event. In Los Angeles, more than 4,000 miles away, alarm bells went off and the entire west coast went under alert, from California to Washington State.

And what are you supposed to do when a tsunami threatens?

  • Listen to the radio and watch TV for news broadcasts of warnings. 
  • Evacuate immediately upon receiving notice of an impending tsunami. 
  • Do not go to the beach to watch the waves come ashore. That's a death wish. 
  • Immediately gather your loved ones and head for high ground. 
  • Follow designated tsunami evacuation routes, if they are established in your area, or simply head inland and uphill as quickly as possible. 
  • Be prepared to purify drinking water in the aftermath of a tsunami, because the normal water sources will be fouled. 
  • Avoid debris in the water. In fact, avoid water altogether, as it might be seriously polluted. 
  • Stay away from flood damaged areas until authorities say it is safe to return.  

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