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Alaskan Earthquake Almost Created Small Tidal Surge on Oregon Coast

Published 12/02/2018 at 1:59 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Alaskan Earthquake Almost Created Small Tidal Surge on Oregon Coast

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(Seaside, Oregon) – Friday's 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Alaska caused more than a few tense moments along the Oregon coast, as authorities up north had issued a tsunami warning for part of the affected areas. The quake, which took place about 8:45 a.m., could have resulted in a tsunami heading for these beaches.

All around the Oregon coast, social media lit up for a time with the alerts for Alaska. It was not an unheard of scenario, by any means, that something could be coming to this region and authorities wouldn't know until a little while later.

Around 10:10 a.m., Alaska's tsunami alert was canceled, and by that time it had been clear that none would be issued for the Oregon coast. However, Seaside geologist Tom Horning was examining numbers from his end and was seeing the possibility that a slightly larger-than-usual wave might occur on the Oregon coast. There was clearly no danger involved: it would simply be a bit of a surge.

It was a curiosity at best, but still an interesting event – if it were to happen. He brought up that idea not long after the quake, but the chances of a surge were diminishing throughout the day.

“If a tsunami is generated, it will arrive Seaside around 3:45 p.m.,” Horning said that morning. “The tide will be around +5.0 ft. Based on this, there should not be a significant risk of a tsunami, although the tide might surge a foot higher than normal.”

Nothing, of course, materialized. No one reported seeing anything slightly larger than usual in the tides about that time, and Oregon Coast Beach Connection had a couple of people on the lookout.

If anyone would know about tsunamis, it would be Horning. Aside from being the Carl Sagan of Oregon coast geology, he experienced the 1964 tsunami that tore up Seaside, coming from a much larger quake in Alaska at the time. Horning was a pre-teen then, asleep in an upstairs loft when water came crashing through the bottom floor of his childhood home on the Necanicum River.

He spent a little time comparing the two quakes.

“The Seaside tsunami of 1964 was from 8.5 to 19 ft high and came in on a 7.8 ft tide,” Horning said. “Compared to the subduction zone quake of 1964, this is 1 percent the magnitude of 1964 and has released about 0.1 percent the energy. It can be locally destructive to poorly built structures on bad ground, but its effect dissipates over larger areas.”

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