Professor urges awareness of 'rare' East Coast tsunami

Professor urges awareness of 'rare' East coast tsunami

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Looking at brightly colored maps and reading into graphs and numbers, Dr. Steven Jaume is proving the Lowcountry isn't tsunami proof.

The College of Charleston professor says there's data that says the Charleston harbor has felt tsunami waves.

"We have records that they have occurred," said Jaume. "They have reached Charleston just not been big enough to do any damage."

Measured in inches, Charleston's tsunami waves are the result of earthquakes in the Atlantic ocean.

"It's rare… but they do happen," said the Professor, who isn't ruling out the fact they can happen on a larger scale down the road.

Jaume says a recent magnitude 8.0 earthquake in the South Pacific and the tsunami that followed challenged him to revisit the risk of a more serious threat here on the East coast.

"One day in the future one is going to be big enough to do damage and we need to be prepared for it," said Jaume.

He admits that one day could be a ways away. but there's no way to predict when or where a big earthquake or landslide will hit sending waves to Charleston shores.

Jaume says active plates off the coast of Africa/Europe and north of Puerto Rico pose the greatest threat to the South Carolina coast.

He says even though Charleston is prepared for Hurricane's and large storm threats, a tsunami is a different beast.

"We're talking about something that would reach here in a few hours as opposed to seeing it on its way for a few days," said Jaume, noting the difference between tsunami and hurricanes.

"A tsunami would really take us by surprise," says Ken French. "We're not ready for that at all."

French was one of a handful of people who did a double take when they were asked 'are you prepared for a tsunami?'

Johnny Branks of Folly Beach said he 'wished he was.' Branks said he was here for Hurricane Hugo and the last thing he would want to see off our coast is a tsunami.

"If we have a tsunami getting people off these islands will be hard," said Branks.

The Charleston County Emergency Preparedness Department has published a checklist on their website to help with ways to prepare for a potential tsunami.

The first thing they recommend is finding out if your home is in a danger area, a place susceptible to flooding.

Next, they advise locating safe zones like buildings with more than three floors and finding the nearest evacuation route.

Finally, they always urge picking up disaster supplies in case the worst case scenario does happen.

"In the community we need to have this awareness," said Dr. Jaume. "We got to keep prepared for that bad day so that you can minimize the loss of life."

375 miles off coast of Charleston, dart buoy's that measure the size and strength of any incoming tsunami waves. Jaume says in the event an earthquake were to take place in the Atlantic, the buoys would be the first line of defense, through measurement, here in the Lowcountry.

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