In the event that a large-scale earthquake were to strike the coast of Los Angeles causing a tsunami to head toward the shore, a good portion of the Venice and Marina del Rey areas west of Lincoln Boulevard could be at risk for potential flooding, a recently released inundation map shows.
Residents and workers in those low-lying coastal areas at risk, identified in pink on the map, are encouraged to prepare for possible evacuation to areas shown in white or to seek higher ground in that event.
Tsunami inundation maps covering each of California’s coastal counties have been released to the public by the USC School of Engineering’s Tsunami Research Center, the California Geological Survey and the California Emergency Management Agency. The maps, released at a conference last month near the five-year anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami which killed hundreds of thousands of people, identify the zones at risk for possible tsunami inundation.
Approximately 350,000 Californians live in coastal areas that are subject to potential inundation, according to researchers involved in the project.
A tsunami, Japanese for “harbor wave,” is a series of waves — usually caused by an earthquake — that has the potential to strike low-lying areas such as Venice and Marina del Rey, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Tsunamis that could threaten the Los Angeles area might be generated by a close event, such as an earthquake off coast, or an earthquake farther away in the Pacific Ocean, according to NOAA.
Dr. Aggeliki Barberopoulou, an assistant research professor with the USC School of Engineering, said many coastal counties previously did not have inundation maps but they now each have a model with which to notify residents.
“All of the counties now have maps that they can base their evacuation on,” she said, referring to the improvements with the new maps. “We are now all on the same page on the coast of California.”
Barberopoulou, who provided data and operated simulation procedures for the project, explained that the effort to update inundation models for each of the counties was pushed by the Southeast Asia tsunami disaster in 2004.
The three-year process involved acquiring data through simulation of local and distant natural disasters, analyzing the topography of coastal areas like Venice Beach and reviewing the data, she explained. The affected area shown on the maps represents a combination of source events, rather than a single tsunami event.
With the maps currently accessible to the public, Barberopoulou said the next step is educating community members because some may be unaware that they are living in an area threatened by possible flooding.
“We can now use these maps as best we can to give people some basic facts about tsunamis,” she said. “We wanted to pass a very simple message to the peopleÖthat this is where the water could come.”
Tsunamis are considered rare events for Southern California but areas like Venice and Marina del Rey are at risk in the event they do happen because they are at very low elevation along the coast, according to the Tsunami Research Center. The inundation model for the Venice region, which is among the most at-risk in Los Angeles, shows coverage up to Abbot Kinney Boulevard toward Lincoln Boulevard and encompassing Marina del Rey.
The maps can serve some important purposes to residents and officials, including drawing attention to the possible threat of tsunamis and advising people to take action if a disaster occurs, Barberopoulou says.
Venice residents such as Robin Rudisil agreed that the maps can be a useful tool for warning residents that they are in an inundation zone and enabling them to better react.
“When I found out that we are in an inundation zone I was surprised because I didn’t know,” said Rudisil, who serves on an emergency preparedness task force of the Venice Neighborhood Council.
“The biggest thing in my mind is awareness because the more people see it, understand it and know what to do then they can help others. It’s a completely different scenario than if you don’t know.”
Venice resident Darryl DuFay, who helped organize a town hall event on tsunamis in 2007, said the inundation maps can help people prepare for an emergency.
“It’s a valuable service for people to be aware that there’s a possibility for a tsunami event,” he said. “People need to be aware and prepare as best as they want to.”
Warnings of tsunamis caused by distant earthquakes are broadcast through standard National Weather Service methods, including NOAA weather radio or the Emergency Alert System. But for more local earthquakes that can cause tsunamis to head for shore in minutes, the warning will be the earthquake itself, according to the Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Department.
The city department had developed tsunami evacuation plans and installed evacuation warning signs along the route last year prior to the release of the inundation maps, said Larry Meyerhofer, emergency preparedness coordinator. Under a pending grant project, the city hopes to use the new maps to revise its evacuation plan, install additional evacuation signs and relocate existing signage to be consistent with the models, as well as develop new information brochures for residents in those areas, he said.
People are encouraged to educate themselves on the precautions they should take if a tsunami strikes and the inundation maps can be another tool to make them aware, Meyerhofer said.
“Hopefully they’re beneficial because people will be even more aware of the hazard,” he said.
Inundation maps for Los Angeles County can be found at: www.conservation.ca.gov/cgs/geologic_hazards/Tsunami/Inundation_Maps/LosAngeles/Pages/LosAngeles.aspx/.