Since 2004 the word tsunami has been in the news and on the minds of millions of people around the world who live along coastlines. A greater awareness of just how destructive tsunamis can be has led to increased speculation by Americans about whether a tsunami, especially a mega tsunami, could strike the East Coast of the USA with disastrous consequences.
Tsunamis Can Be Highly Destructive – Mega Tsunamis Catastrophic
The world was made fully aware of the destructive power of tsunamis by the December 2004 tsunami that was generated by a massive earthquake off the coast of Indonesia. That mega tsunami devastated much of the eastern coastline of Indonesia and the Pluket resort area of Thailand, killing an estimated 250,000 people who had no time to evacuate the affected areas.
The horrible destruction caused by this tsunami was captured on video by thousands of terrified near fatal victims and immediately broadcast to the world on TV and uploaded to the Internet. It was largely this widely viewed video coverage that generated so much interest in tsunamis and their enormous potential for destruction.
Then in March 2011 a 9.0 Richter scale earthquake occurred off shore of northeast Japan. A tsunami was generated that measured 16 meters high at the Fukushima nuclear power plant located directly on the coastline at Fukushima, Japan. The tsunami absolutely devastated the fishing and farming communities located within 3 miles of the northeastern Japan shoreline and caused extensive damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The ensuing nuclear disaster has been raised to the level of a Chernobyl.
Thus far, over 13,000 victims have been reported as killed by the tsunami and another 17,000+ are reported as missing. Once again, modern technology provided the means for this tsunami and its devastating consequences to be recorded on numerous video clips, which were broadcast worldwide on TV. The two mega tsunamis which occurred within a seven-year time span has greatly increased the public interest and fears in the effects and dangers of tsunamis.
Could a Mega Tsunami Strike the Eastern Seaboard of the USA?
This interest has led to increased speculation about a mega tsunami that could be generated should a massive landslide occur as a ten mile section of La Palma, one of the Canary Islands in the Eastern Atlantic, collapses into the Atlantic ocean. This natural disaster could happen following a volcanic eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma. Should this catastrophic event occur scientists believe that a wall of water up to 300 feet high would race across the Atlantic and reach the East Coast of the United States in about nine to 10 hours.
See “Could a tsunami strike the U.S. East Coast?” by Steve Tracton, posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/14/2011.
While the probability of such an event occurring within our lifetimes is considered low should it occur while great cities such as New York, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, and Miami still exist and are heavily populated the results would be complete disaster. A 300 foot high wall of water would be approximately six times higher than the tsunami that struck Fukushima, Japan. The force of such a tsunami wave would obliterate any and everything in its path to a distance of at least 20 miles inland.
For Many Timely Evacuation From a Mega Tsunami Would be Impossible
While the population of the US eastern seaboard would receive up to 10 hours warning of the approaching tsunami that would not be sufficient time to safely evacuate such large population centers. Americans had a taste of the difficulty of quickly evacuating large population centers during hurricane Katrina. The task of safely and quickly evacuating the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States would be many times more difficult.
Such a widespread disaster would completely test the ability of the United States to survive and rebuild. For one thing the electric power grid of the entire United States would be affected. Probably the entire national power grid would be at risk as the sudden massive loss of power along the Eastern Seaboard would cause interconnected and largely automatically controlled systems to go haywire. Many would fail.
The nations financial systems would cease to function. In fact, many financial centers such as the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank headquarters in Washington,D.C., would cease to exist. Then there would be the prospect of every nuclear power plant located within 20 miles of the Atlantic Ocean suffering massive damage, perhaps leading to complete reactor core meltdowns. Without electricity, communications of any sort, except face-to-face, would soon be next to impossible. Generators could provide some power for awhile but would probably soon run out of fuel. A complete list of severe disruptions to modern living would be a long one.
Those who survived a mega tsunami striking the East Coast of the United States would find themselves in a harsh environment where even basic survival would require courage, toughness, and the ability to fend for themselves. You could not depend upon the government to bail you out as what little government that remained would be frightened, lacking communications, in a panic, and suffering from severe trauma as would be the general population.
So, could a mega tsunami strike the US East Coast? The frightening answer is yes, but hopefully our good luck will hold and the terrifying event will take place hundreds or thousands of years from now, or better yet never. Still, for those living along the Eastern Seaboard of the US planning a route of escape in advance and packing a survival bag or two might be a very good idea.
Washington Post: “Could a tsunami strike the U.S. East Coast?”
You Tube: “Fearing the future – Mega Tsunami – BBC”