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Newport relatively tsunami-safe

December 13, 2005|By By Andrew Edwards

City's south-facing shoreline makes it less vulnerable to a deadly surge.Although California's coastline faces a "significant threat to life and property" in the event of a tsunami, according to a study released Monday, Newport Beach appears to be in better shape than most of the state's coastal areas.

The city's geography reduces its risk from tsunamis that originate from the north, and Newport's emergency response plan includes a plan to respond to a tsunami.

The study, prompted by the disastrous Indonesian tsunami last December, found that 1 million Californians live in coastal areas that are vulnerable to tsunamis. The report was issued by the California Seismic Safety Commission, a state body that advises California and local governments on earthquake-related issues.

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"I think we are indeed exposed to significant damage from a number of different sources to a tsunami in California. That was a surprise to me," said study chairman Donald Parker. Parker is also the chief of the Vallejo Fire Department.

Tsunamis are waves that are typically generated by earthquakes under the ocean. In California, 82 actual or possible tsunamis have been recorded, the report stated. No recorded tsunami has ever hit Newport Beach, though in 1964 "tidal surges" triggered by an Alaska earthquake caused moderate damage around Newport Harbor, according to Newport Beach's emergency management plan.

For Newport Beach, the tsunami risk is considered to be low to moderate. Newport Beach's shore faces south, which means the city is at less risk than other coastal communities from a tsunami generated from the north, said Katie Freeman, Newport Beach's disaster preparedness coordinator.

Statewide, the Seismic Safety Commission reported, a tsunami generated by an earthquake off the Pacific Northwest coast poses the greatest danger to Californians.

But Newport could be affected by a tsunami with an origin near Hawaii or Chile, Freeman said.

The commission report covered the emergency response to a tsunami warning that was issued in June, and found "several gaps" in the abilities of emergency agencies across the state to respond to a tsunami. According to the study, problems relating to the June warning included potential for confusion with the national tsunami warning system and a lack of emergency planning in some areas.

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