King Cove and Cold Bay are the latest communities to be certified as ‘Tsunami Ready’ by the National Weather Service. The program recognizes cities that have planned extensively for tsunamis.
“They have signage, they have evacuation routes, they have a tsunami shelter, they have sirens and they also have awareness to recognize what the natural warning signs are when a tsunami is coming,” says coordinator Cindi Preller.
King Cove and Cold Bay have both been affected by tsunamis in the past. The 1946 Scotch Cap earthquake generated waves of 10 and 18 feet in the respective communities. More recently, the 2010 Chilean earthquake produced a 3 foot tsunami. King Cove is particularly at risk.
“The shape of King Cove’s harbor and the fjord going into King Cove makes it especially susceptible,” says Preller. “The way it’s angled toward the trench and maintains its depth all the way to the community. We definitely have concerns for King Cove that way.”
Preller says the Tsunami Ready program focuses on education in Alaska, because near-shore quakes can produce waves that hit before official warnings are issued. She and her colleagues visited schools and gave presentations to city officials in both communities.
“The program continues, there’s an annual requirement that the education is repeated throughout the schools and public open forums.”
King Cove and Cold Bay join eight other Alaskan coastal communities that are part of the program, including Unalaska.