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Vulnerable California Harbors Prepare For Future Tsunamis

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) -- Next week marks 50 years since a magnitude 9.2 earthquake in Alaska triggered a tsunami that killed 12 people in Northern California. Scientists are mapping five vulnerable harbors, including Santa Cruz and Crescent City, so managers can come up with better emergency plans.

The scientists will look at vulnerabilities and changes in the tides, so harbors and managers can figure out which boats need to move out first and how far they need to go. Mapping will also determine which docks could suffer the most damage and from what size of waves.

Much of the data was based on a tsunami that struck the California coast from the massive 2011 earthquake in Japan.

"Maps that identify the problem areas within the harbors based on the strength of currents," said Rick Wilson, head of the tsunami program with the California Geological Survey. "The current speeds that we saw in 2011 tsunami from Japan along our coast were strong enough to do a lot of that damage. And so that we feel that if we can figure out what those currents will be in different scenarios, we can relate that to the damage those currents will cause."

The tsunami caused $100 million in damage to 27 harbors in the state.

A new scenario projects a 9.1 quake from Alaska could destroy one third of our boats and damage two-thirds of our marine facilities.

Next week is also Tsunami Preparedness Week. Officials are encouraging people to go on tsunami walks next week, which is similar to a fire drill. People are urged to locate higher ground, to figure out the best path to get there, and to practice getting there to be ready in the event of a tsunami emergency.

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