Marin County works on tsunami plan

February 01, 2007 11:00 pm

Triplicate staff

A county in the San Francisco metro area approved a new emergency plan to warn and evacuate coastal areas in the event of a tsunami.

Marin County officials also plan to launch an education campaign to provide information about tsunamis to its residents in areas most threatened by the killer waves, the Marin Independent Journal reported Thursday.

Under the new plan, the county's "first priority would be to warn and evacuate residents of coastal areas," the paper said. "Its next priority would be to alert and move populations at campgrounds, beaches, schools or convalescent care facilities. The county sheriff's office would lead and direct the evacuation effort in unincorporated areas."

The Marin County Board approved the new plan Wednesday. That decision comes less than three months after a tsunami struck the Crescent City Harbor, causing $1.1 million in damage.

Marin County Sheriff's officials worry that a national Tsunami Warning System may take up to 10 minutes to send a warning message to them, and the National Weather Service could take up to 15 minutes to activate its emergency alert system.

Once the county receives that information, its agencies could take as long as 30 minutes to respond.

While most tusnamis would take at least 4 hours to reach the coast, some might occur in as short as 10 minutes, Marin officials said. Among them would be an earthquake off the Northcoast.

Two small tsunamis struck Marin County in 1946 and 1960, but no one died. The 1964 tsunami killeed 11 people in Crescent City and damaged buildings, docks and boats in in Marin County.

Marin County officials are most concerned about a tsunami striking its northern coast.

"We think that the energy of a wave that got into San Francisco Bay would be relatively small, because it would have to go through the Golden Gate," Chris Godley, county emergency services manager told the newspaper earlier this week. "However, we really don't have the science yet to know the impact that it would cause."

Marin County runs north of San Francisco to Point Reyes.

In addition, Marin County's Office of Emergency Services plans two daylong forum son tsunami preparedness later this month.

"The campaign follows a recent study by Dominican University researchers that suggests most residents of coastal Marin do not know a tsunami's warning signs, how much time they would have to evacuate or what to do if a wave strikes," the newspaper reported.