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California maps will point to tsunami danger zones

March 21, 2014|By Rosanna Xia and Rong-Gong Lin II

California officials on Friday announced that they were beginning to draw tsunami flood maps in Huntington Beach, Crescent City and other cities that could be used to restrict development of new buildings in areas along the coast that may be destroyed during a large tsunami.

The California Geological Survey made the announcement Friday in advance of the 50th anniversary of the deadliest tsunami that has hit modern California. Fifty years ago next Thursday, a tsunami triggered by a 9.2 earthquake in Alaska killed 13 people in California alone, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The new mapping efforts come after harbor officials, boaters and marina residents had no emergency plans in place when a February 2010 earthquake in Chile produced a tsunami that struck California’s coast and caused millions of dollars in damage to harbors.

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“Harbor masters and emergency managers were really caught off guard by this,” said Rick Wilson, head of the California Geological Survey’s tsunami program. “At this point, we started looking to produce products that might help them for planning purposes and also knowing if, and when, they needed to take ships off-shore.”

The 2010 tsunami and the tsunami that struck California after the 2011 earthquake in Japan has given state officials, for the first time, substantial data and information to develop plans on how to better act when the next devastating wave hits.

“Before those two events, we really didn't have any detailed information about tsunamis along our coast,” Wilson said. “But because those two events occurred, we were able to have staff go out and collect the data -- it was priceless, really."

Huntington Beach and Crescent City are the pilot cities for these land-use planning maps. In the past, maps like these have been mainly published for research or informational purposes, but officials are now working to create maps that would help local officials decide where to build in tsunami flood zones, and to consider any additional safety designs.

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