Tsunami

Kodiak is officially designated a Tsunami-Ready Community by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Derek Clarkston photo)

This week is National Tsunami Preparedness Week, and local emergency planning officials are reminding people to be prepared for the next big wave.

“It’s a week to give more attention to being prepared for tsunamis for those folks that live in a tsunami zone,” said Kodiak Fire Department chief Rome Kamai.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Alaska Broadcasters Association are conducting a statewide tsunami siren test using at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday.

The city of Kodiak will sound its tsunami siren as regularly scheduled at 2 p.m. Wednesday, but some people in Kodiak may still hear the statewide warning if they have a NOAA weather radio.

If the tsunami siren does go off and it’s not a test, people should head to high ground or to one of the shelter locations. Kodiak High School is the primary location for shelter in the case of a tsunami or other disaster because it can hold between 1,500 to 2,000 people.

“Kodiak is also classified as a tsunami and storm-ready community,” Kamai said. “It basically means that we have the warning systems in place in the event that KPD dispatch is notified of either a tsunami warning that there was an earthquake generated somewhere and that the potential for a tsunami to come to Kodiak is indicated.”

The local emergency planning committee also put out a preparedness guide that tells residents everything they need to know to be prepared for storms, tsunamis, earthquakes and chemical incidents. The guide can be downloaded in English, Spanish or Tagalog at http://www.kodiakak.us/index.aspx?NID=86.

Geological experts in the state are currently working to help Kodiak prepare for the next big earthquake and tsunami by identifying possible earthquakes that could occur here.

“Kodiak is in a highly seismic part of the world,” said Gary Carver, an expert on earthquake geology. “Earthquakes here are not uncommon. Kodiak has had at least 22 earthquakes that have resulted in damage in the Kodiak city area since the first Russians settled here in the late 1700s. Six of these generated tsunamis.”

Carver has studied earthquake geology for 45 years and is a member of the Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety Commission, which works to reduce the state’s vulnerability to earthquakes.

The commission is working in partnership with the Kodiak Island Borough, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Alaska Division of Geology and Geophysical Surveys and local emergency planning groups to develop three different earthquake scenarios for Kodiak Island.

The commission has worked on the project for about a year. This is the first time scenarios have been developed for Alaska. Similar projects have been completed in the Lower 48 for Seattle, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area and the Midwest.

“What an earthquake scenario does is to identify potential future earthquakes not by predicting them, but by identifying these are the kinds of earthquakes that have happened in the past and could happen in the future,” Carver said.

The scenarios analyze Kodiak’s infrastructure and response capabilities, evaluate what effects the scenario earthquakes might produce and how the effects could be mitigated.

The commission is doing scenarios for three different earthquakes that have occurred in Kodiak before — an earthquake on the same system of faults as the 1964 earthquake, an earthquake on the Narrow Cape fault on the east side of the island, and one on the Pacific Plate that is sliding underneath Kodiak Island.

The scenarios will determine where the losses are most likely to occur so Kodiak can properly prepare for future earthquakes and tsunamis.

Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at nklauss@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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