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Ref2: Oregon scientists recreate town to study tsunami impact

AP


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Lab to Study Tsunami Preparation Efforts




CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) -- It's a version of Seaside - carefully created at a fraction of its actual size - just waiting to be slammed by a tsunami.

Oregon State University's O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory's Tsunami Wave Basin is re-creating a few blocks of Seaside so researchers can repeatedly slam tidal waves into it. And officials of the Oregon coast town are thrilled. The $1 million study could help save lives.

The project will be added to other tsunami preparation efforts in Seaside, such as bridge renovations, said Kevin Cupples, the city's planning director.

"We think it will be one more piece of good information to add to the mix. ... Several people in the community are going down to check out the lab," said Deb Treusdell, Seaside's tsunami preparedness program coordinator.

Oregon State wanted to look at how a tsunami would impact an actual community and selected the popular tourist destination, said Daniel Cox, director of the center.

The model buildings will be put in place this summer, but a big part of the replica is a mock-up of the sea floor leading up to the town. The study aims to determine the size of a potential tsunami in Seaside and whether it would be better to run for the hills or get to an upper floor of a beachfront hotel.

Scientists believe a large tsunami - a 35-foot-high wall of water rushing over the beach in Seaside - could be caused by a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake just offshore.

Researchers know that one occurred on Jan. 26, 1700. Such an event today would be similar to the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, which several people survived through "vertical evacuation" - taking refuge on the second story of a hotel or bar.

"They call it a 500-year event," Cox said. "There's a chance it could happen sooner."

In fact, experts say, there's a 14 percent or greater chance that it could occur in the next 50 years. Such a tsunami would take about 15 to 20 minutes to hit the Oregon coast, according to the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

It would take just about that long to flee from the beach to higher ground outside the tsunami-flooding area.

The town actually slopes downhill from the shoreline, which stretches out the flooding zone, and people heading for the hills would need to cross a river and creek on bridges that might not survive the initial earthquake, Cox said.

The Clatsop County community has a population of nearly 6,000. On a sunny summer day, tourists could triple the number of people in the city, Cox said.

"There's a tsunami coming so quickly, there are so many people, and there's so far to go," he added, summarizing potential problems for the city.

An open house and demonstrations of the Seaside model will be held on Nov. 9 and 10 at Oregon State.

The model will be used for research from this fall until next April. The National Science Foundation and Oregon Sea Grant are funding the studies.

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Information from: Gazette-Times, http://www.gtconnect.com

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