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Edmonds gets a tsunami warning siren

Is the city at risk?


Last updated 7/8/2021 at 10:59am

Brian Soergel

A tsunami siren has been installed in the parking lot by Olympic Beach in Edmonds.

Could the Big Rip, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake generated by the Cascadia Subduction Zone parallel to the Washington coast, affect Edmonds?

Maximilian Dixon, Hazards and Outreach program supervisor for the Washington Emergency Management Division (WEMD), has a simple answer.

"Edmonds," he said simply, "is at risk from tsunamis."

A recent study with maps showing the risk in Puget Sound from a tsunami caused by a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake was released in April. Low-lying areas near Edmonds' shoreline – like most of central Puget Sound – showed "shoreline where inundation is inferred but not quantified."

But when such a frightening scenario does eventually happen – experts say it's a certainty with subduction zones – Edmonds residents near the Sound could get a warning hours before tsunami waves strike if a quake occurs miles from shore, or sooner if the subduction zone breaks.

Last week, the WEMD placed its newest pole-mounted tsunami siren – also known as an All Alert Hazards Broadcast tower (AHAB) – in the parking lot near Olympic Beach at Dayton Avenue West and Railroad Avenue.

According to the WEMD, if a tsunami occurs, the sirens supply audible and visual warnings of the impending danger via a wailing audio sound and an intense blue light for the hearing impaired, which can also cut through fog and is visible from a long distance.

The siren's circular design – which provides 360-degree coverage – supplies a 4,500-watt public address system to relay verbal information or play digitally pre-recorded messages, in both English and Spanish.

The siren, one of the last 50 of a planned 122 in the state, was funded by the state Legislature to the tune of $2.7 million, plus $150,000 in federal funds. A map showing all locations will be updated soon at #bit.ly/3j41Dg9#, said Dixon.

According to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, residents along central Puget Sound's shorelines would have "minutes to tens of minutes" to evacuate if the Cascadia Subduction Zone breaks.

The siren will be tested on the first Monday of every month at noon, playing the familiar "Westminster Chimes" melody –check out the sound at http://www.bit.ly/3h1Vsa6. The sirens are also tested once a year, with the actual wail sound on the third Thursday in October in conjunction with the Great Washington ShakeOut.

For the yearly test, the wail sound will be followed by a voice message in English and Spanish explaining that it is only a test.

Is Edmonds prepared?

The City recently posted a job notice for a safety and disaster coordinator that would pay between $76,000 and $102,000 a year.

In February 2016, the City signed a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) agreement with Snohomish County's Department of Emergency Management to assist with emergencies that could occur.

The safety and disaster coordinator would be responsible for coordinating and implementing drills and exercises for City employees and for the development and maintenance of the CEMP.

In addition, the new hire would be responsible for ensuring that drills and exercises are conducted on an ongoing and annual basis to evaluate the effectiveness of the CEMP, and to determine future related training needs, the effectiveness of the City's management programs, and the employees' level of training.

According to the CEMP, http://www.bit.ly/2SZSZER: "Disasters and emergencies have occurred in Edmonds and will likely occur again in the future. Through a process of hazard vulnerability analysis it has been determined that the City of Edmonds is vulnerable to numerous technological, natural, and human caused hazards.

"These hazards include: wind, rain and snow storms, earthquake, flood, landslide, tidal surge, common and private carrier accidents, search and rescue emergencies, civil disturbance, terrorist activity, conventional and nuclear war, explosion, structural collapse, hazardous material incident, major fire, and energy and utility system failure."

The National Weather Service operates two Tsunami Warning Centers, staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) in Palmer, Alaska, is responsible for monitoring and alerting the coastlines of Alaska, Canada, the continental United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

The National Tsunami Warning Center has a Twitter account where it posts official notices at #twitter.com/NWS_NTWC#.

To receive notifications when a tweet from @NWS_NTWC is sent, you must choose to be notified within the Twitter app on your mobile device and/or through http://www.twitter.com.


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