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District finds no tsunami threat to Powell River

POWELL RIVER, B.C.- Emergency coordinators in the region want to clarify where Powell River stands when it comes to tsunami warnings.

“If you do not feel a strong local earthquake, then there is no tsunami threat here (in Powell River),” said Ryan Thoms, Manager of Emergency Services with the Powell River Regional District.

“Earthquakes across the wider Pacific Ocean can generate tsunamis affecting the outer coasts of British Columbia, the west coast of Vancouver Island, even the Victoria area and up the central coast, but here, in the protected waters of the Salish Sea, Tsunami Notification Zone E in the British Columbia coast is relatively protected from these, and the science says that we should not be receiving any kind of a devastating tsunami from those earthquakes.

On Tuesday, Jan. 23rd, a tsunami warning was issued for coastal BC. Thoms wants residents to know that Powell River was not actually at risk.

“Certainly I had some phone calls the following morning of confusion from people,” he said.

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“During last week’s tsunami warning, it was put out for Tsunami Notification Zones A, B, C and D, and it was quite clear that (Zone E) was not being warned of any incoming potential for a tsunami.”

Thoms said during the events of last week, they received notice of some people believing there was a need to evacuate to higher ground, which was not the case.

“It is important for people to understand that there is a tsunami risk here, but it is understood to be a risk resulting from more local earthquakes,” he explained.

“Local earthquakes can cause landslides that come into the sea or into the lakes, and that would certainly have the potential to cause local tsunamis, but again, if you don’t feel the earthquake because it’s far away, like in Alaska or Japan or elsewhere across the Pacific Ocean, then the science says there is no local tsunami threat here.”

A report from 2007 studied tsunami risk in Powell River. That can be found here.

“It talks about a maximum one metre wave, which is certainly not the devastating image we saw in the tragedy in Japan a few years ago, but still, it’s a one metre wave that if it arrives at high tide due to a local earthquake, a local tsunami could have negative impacts if you’re right on the coast line,” he said.

“Anyone who feels a local earthquake should assume a tsunami could be generated, and move away from the water’s edge. So when you feel an earthquake, drop, cover and hold on and when the shaking stops, move away from the water.”

Emergency Management BC has the province separated into five Tsunami Notification Zones:

  • Zone A covers the North coast and Haida Gwaii
  • Zone B covers the central coast and Northeast Vancouver Island coast, including Kitimat, Bella Coola and Port Hardy
  • Zone C covers the outer West coast of Vancouver Island from Cape Scott to Port Renfrew
  • Zone D covers the Juan de Fuca Strait from Jordan River to Greater Victoria, including the Saanich Peninsula
  • Zone E covers the Strait of Georgia, including the Gulf Islands, Greater Vancouver and Johnstone Strait

For more details on emergency preparedness, including details on the Tsunami Notification Zones, visit the Powell River Regional District’s emergency preparedness website.

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