Knowing When a Tsunami Is Imminent

Anybody who is near the sea or in an area prone to tsunamis (as indicated by warning signs in places like Hawaii) needs to pay particular attention to some of the subtle and not so subtle warning signs that a tsunami may be imminent. First, there may be warning sirens in areas that are equipped with a tsunami warning system. If the sirens are sounded, it is imperative to move to high ground immediately. People in more remote locations may need to pay attention to the natural warning signs. Anyone on the shore who feels an earthquake should run for higher ground. A tsunami may hit within minutes, an hour or two, or not at all, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Tsunamis travel in groups with periods between crests that can be an hour or more, so there are likely to be several crests over a period of many hours. Many people have died when they returned to the beach to investigate the damage after the first crest passes. If the tsunami-generating earthquake occurred far away, there may not be any detectable ground motion before a tsunami hits, and residents of remote areas may not have any warning of the impending tsunami, except for the thunderous crash of waves right before it hits the beachface. In other cases, the water may suddenly recede to unprecedented levels right before it quickly rises up again in the tsunami crest. In either case, any one enjoying the beachfront needs to remain aware of the dangers. in general, the heads of bays receive the highest run-ups, and the sides and mouths record lower run-up heights. but this may vary considerably depending on the submarine topography and other factors.

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