Earthquake News

Tribe from coastal Washington builds the first tsunami tower in our country to provide higher ground.

If you're on Washington's southwest coast when the Big One hits, you have a new way to avoid a tsunami. In Tokeland, Washington, the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe dedicated a 50-foot tall evacuation tower on Friday. The new tsunami shelter platform, according to tribal officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, should serve as an example and an inspiration for other at-risk coastal towns.

People on the Pacific Northwest coast will have between 15 and 35 minutes to travel to high ground in order to avoid a potential tsunami when the next magnitude 9.0 rip of the offshore Cascadia fault zone happens. Many of the inhabitants of Tokeland live on a long, flat peninsula where there is no high elevation within walking or jogging distance.

Lynn Clark, a representative of the Shoalwater Tribal Council, remarked during the jubilant dedication ceremony that "this tower will save our lives someday." The ceremony was followed by a salmon bake to honor all of the project's collaborators.

Ken Ufkin, the emergency management director for the tribe, claimed that having the robust, double-decker tsunami refuge tower as artificial high ground helps him sleep better. The tower is located close to the center of the Tokeland Peninsula, which is almost three miles long.

"This allows people to pick up their families and make it here in a very short amount of time, under a 15-minute window for nearly everyone from Tokeland Point to the heart of the reservation," Ufkin said. "This lets persons even if it's 2:30 in the morning in your pajamas."

Ken Ufkin, the emergency management director for the tribe, claimed that having the robust, double-decker tsunami refuge tower as artificial high ground helps him sleep better. The tower is located close to the center of the Tokeland Peninsula, which is almost three miles long.

"This allows people to pick up their families and make it here in a very short amount of time, under a 15-minute window for nearly everyone from Tokeland Point to the heart of the reservation," Ufkin said. "This lets persons even if it's 2:30 in the morning in your pajamas."

In a disaster, the tower will be accessible to anyone. More than 400 people can fit on the tower platforms, which is a lot more than the little Shoalwater Bay reservation's native population.

The Tokeland evacuation tower is the first of its kind in North America, however it mimics free-standing tsunami towers that have already been constructed in Japan. The two other tsunami refuges on the Northwest coast, located in Westport, Washington, and Newport, Oregon, are reinforced platforms on the roofs of educational institutions.

The largest wave height near the mouth of Willapa Bay was 16.3 feet, according to tsunami experts, according to design engineer Cale Ash, who worked on the Tokeland tower for Degenkolb Engineers. To be cautious, Ash said the design team rounded up to 20.2 feet. He said that the higher platform's floor is 43 feet high and the lower platform's floor is 33 feet above the ground.

At the dedication, Ash explained to the audience that the tower is supported by 55-foot-deep concrete pilings to withstand the intense shaking of the peninsula's fragile, sand-based soils. This indicates that the supports are deeper than the tower's height.

The tribe gave the tower the name Auntie Lee Vertical Evacuation Tower in honor of the project's primary architect, Lee Shipman, a retired tribal emergency management director. Shipman's concept took longer than five years to realize, with the coronavirus epidemic being blamed for a year's worth of construction delays.

The top professionals in the USA contributed to this initiative, Shipman boasted. We were able to construct the very first house thanks to the assistance of all the different agencies.

Major General Bret Daugherty, commander of the Washington National Guard and the state military department, which houses the Emergency Management Division, continued, "We need around 50 more." General Daugherty turned to face Willie Nunn, regional administrator for FEMA, who was watching the dedication ceremony from the front row as he spoke that line.

The Tokeland tower's design and construction were funded in part by $3.8 million from FEMA. To finish the budget, the Shoalwater Bay tribe provided an additional $1.2 million.

The community of Ocean Shores, Washington, which is collaborating with Degenkolb on a design, is the most probable candidate to be the next location in the Northwest to construct a tsunami evacuation tower. The majority of the required construction funds has been acquired by the city administration from federal, state, and municipal sources. The entire town of Ocean Shores is inside the area that would be flooded by a tsunami caused by a Cascadia megaquake.

Westport, Washington, which is close by and uses the reinforced roof above its gym as a tsunami refuge platform, is likewise debating whether to construct an evacuation tower to help those who live or work too far away from Ocosta Elementary School.

Because using vertical evacuation structures means leaving potentially huge groups of people in the middle of a catastrophe area who will need to be rescued later, some emergency planners are hesitant to employ them. While they wait, the survivors will be outside in the elements on a structure that will probably take a beating from coursing debris and may even be exposed to toxic waste discharge.

Therefore, choosing to go to natural high ground outside of the tsunami flood zone is far preferable to vertical evacuation. But Ufkin and others warn out that if the Big One collapses roads and topples power poles in low-lying areas like Tokeland - or in Ocean Shores and Long Beach, Washington, and parts of Seaside - it is unlikely that people will be able to get to safety fast by driving.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone fault is one of the most important disaster dangers in the United States, according to geologists and emergency planners. In January 1700, the offshore fault last broke, causing a tsunami to sweep across the Pacific to Japan.

Researchers have also discovered traces of previous massive earthquakes and tsunamis in the bottoms of offshore canyons and coastal wetlands. The recurrence interval of Cascadia megaquakes is calculated to be between 250 and 800 years based on the radiocarbon dating of those events. That places the present day firmly inside the window of returns.

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