County issues tsunami alert test

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SAN DIEGO – All around San Diego, on radio and television many heard the alert sound Wednesday morning.   The alert was part of the tsunami alert system.

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 6.51.33 PMAlex Tardy with the National Weather Service said once a year the test is conducted in conjunction with San Diego County.

“You likely heard a tone sound and then a recorded text to voice message,” said Tardy. “In the event of a real tsunami, we get that message out in a matter of seconds or minutes.”

The drill was a chance for the region to practice its ability to communicate during and respond to a tsunami.

John Orcutt is a professor of geophysics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Orcutt is part of a $400 million project involving a global series of sensors that will provide even earlier detection.

He told Fox 5 San Diego’s Tsunami Zones include San Diego Bay, Coronado and coastal communities from San Diego to Camp Pendleton.  The communities are in the greatest danger from tsunami waves, which could arrive in a series for a number of hours and reach up to 20 feet high.

A tsunami wave in San Diego could be caused by either a strong, local earthquake or a quake hundreds of miles away.

“We have a recorded history that goes back a couple of hundred years,” said Orcutt.

He said in general tsunamis are not a large threat for San Diego County.

“We don’t have the kind of faults that will lead to tsunami’s,” said Orcutt. “There have been some small tsunamis in the past.”

Those tsunamis have not had great impact, but San Diego could be affected by large earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest or smaller ones off our coast.

Two years ago, a tsunami in Japan raised water levels damaging boats and docks in Mission Bay.

“The currents caused all the damage and broke things free,” recalled Orcutt. “There was about $100,000 worth of damage done in the bay.”

“There’s a lot of faults off shore, there are a lot of unknowns,” said Tardy.

Tardy said for those unknowns, it’s important to make sure the system works.

“It’s the system that gets our attention that there’s an important message you need to tune into,” said Tardy.

In the event of a tsunami or any other emergency, it’s these messages keeping the public safe.


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