Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey recently published a study about the seismic activity of tectonic plates near Alaska. There is a specific area where the Pacific Plate is being pushed under the North American Plate. The pressure of this interaction needs to be relieved by many small earthquakes, but right now they aren’t happening. That means the tension is probably building up beneath the surface; and a big quake would mean a tsunami heading towards California.
So, what would this hypothetical tsunami look like if it hit Half Moon Bay? It turns out that the worst damage would actually come from the south because the wave would go straight into the mouth of the harbor. Any waves from the Alaskan plates discussed above would be coming from the north, which means it would have to be a really, really big wave to do major damage over the bluffs. Good news for us!
But it never hurts to be prepared. First off, how do you know if you should be worried in the case of a tsunami? If you can’t hear the tsunami siren, which goes off in English and Spanish every Wednesday at 10am, then your home or office isn’t in the tsunami zone (check out the map for details!). If you hear the tsunami siren anytime besides Wednesday at 10am, do NOT get in your car! You can walk out of the tsunami zone in 10 minutes anywhere on the Coastside. Traffic gridlock means that first responders won’t be able to get to those in need. The tsunami siren will give four hours of warning on average, so you have plenty of time to get to safety!
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Sources: The Weather Channel, Michelle Dragony-Coastside CERT Coordinator