Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

The results of a collaborative project mapping the tsunami risk between the Strathcona Regional District and the Nuchatlaht and Kyuquot Checlesaht First Nations on Vancouver Island have been released.

High-resolution data modeling for the area between Gold River and Cape Scott is now available to the public online.

This area is particularly vulnerable to tsunamis, either from an earthquake that was triggered in the Cascadia subduction zone to the west, or one from the Alaska Aleutian subduction zone to the north.

Shaun Koopman, coordinator of protection services for the Strathcona Regional District, says the project is crucial given the risk of life and death.

“There is no wave more powerful than the ocean … six inches will move a vehicle. So it’s so important that someone knows where this safety limit is, whether the wave is coming from Cascadia or Alaska,” Koopman told CBC’s All points west.

The mapping project, which began last year with $ 450,000 in funding from a provincial government emergency grant, used both original knowledge and oral history as well as computer modeling.

Phillip St-Germain, a project manager and coastal engineer on the project, said these historical accounts were crucial.

“One piece [the project] was to gather native knowledge of stories about people who experienced the 1964 tsunami from Alaska, but also stories that go so far back to the tsunami of 1700 that was generated at the Cascadia subduction zone, which is just a few hundred kilometers off the west coast of Vancouver Island, “said St-Germain.

“Gathering this information backed up the results that our computer models predicted.”

Waves crash against rugged rocks along the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, BC on January 19, 2018. (Melissa Renwick / Canadian Press)

The team was also able to determine an estimate of the arrival of the tsunami waves after an earthquake.

“On the open coast, we look at the arrival of the wave within 15, 20 minutes after the onset of the earthquake,” St-Germain said.

The further inland, the longer it takes for the wave to arrive – up to 40 minutes in some areas.

“Time is crucial and it can make a big difference in allowing people to get to a safe place,” he said. “The extra minutes are precious,” St-Germain said.

The next steps in the project include figuring out ways to communicate this modeling data to the public, Koopman says. This includes working with First Nations to translate into different languages, different immigrant groups, literacy groups and tourist associations to ensure that it is shared widely and widely.

“We [want] to ensure that everyone gets this crucial life-saving information, “Koopman said.

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