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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Researchers: California not ready for disaster

The USC Tsunami Reseach Center said steps should be taken to help prepare Californians for a future disaster

The California coast isn’t prepared enough for a major tsunami to strike, officials at the USC Tsunami Research Center said Friday.

Officials said, while some agencies were prepared, miscommunication created too much confusion in the public.

“[Caltrans] had no information for people who wanted to know if it was safe to drive along highway 1,” said Leslie Ewing, a researcher at the center.

“People wanted to evacuate and get out of different areas,” she said. “Yet there was no information on the CalTrans 5-1-1 number to let people know what were safe routes to take.”

Others said the warning signs needed to be clearer to the public, citing the confusion about when it was safe to return to beaches.

Many people returned to beaches Friday evening, assuming the tsunami had passed, but officials said ocean currents remained unusually strong for some time after the first wave hit the coast.

“The tsunami lasted something like two and a half days before it was actually off of the tide gauges,” said researcher Jose Borrero.

“If we have any kind of wave activity, anything that’s over the two foot level, beaches should be closed and people should be kept away,” said Tsunami Research Center Director Costas Synolakis.
Officials said California lacks many of the recording tools it could use to gauge the impact of ocean currents.

“We have here this event that’s probably the most significant event to strike in 50 years,” Synolakis said. “We could have gotten incredible information simply by having current meters in Crescent City, the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of San Diego — and we don’t [have it].”

“We don’t have a single measurement of the currents from the tsunami,” said Synolakis. “Current meters should be in ports just like seismometers.”

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