Could a Tsunami Someday Hit Seattle?


A main road in the downtown area of Fagatogo, American Samoa is flooded by water on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009. (AP / Fili Sagapolutele)

Three tragic natural disasters have happened within the span of 48 hours. A powerful 7.9 earthquake struck western Indonesia today, triggering landslides and trapping thousands under collapsed buildings. 75 have been confirmed dead, but the death toll is expected to be much higher, according to the AP News Release.

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck the South Pacific Islands of Samoa and American Samoa yesterday, killing at least 113 people. Villages and resorts were completely washed away, but even more terror barreled through the islands as the powerful earthquake triggered a series of massive tsunamis reaching anywhere from 10 to 15 feet.

These are truly horrific and tragic events and even though I have a passion for severe weather/storms, I would not want to be face to face with a tsunami and I can’t imagine the terror and sorrow many in these disaster-stricken areas are feeling. But after I heard about these natural disasters, I began to wonder: what if an earthquake struck off the coast of Washington? Could that trigger a tsunami as well?

It’s very possible.

According to a Seattle P.I. post on February 8th, 2005, scientists say “If a magnitude-7.3 earthquake rumbles out of the recently discovered Seattle Fault, Harbor Island would tilt toward the bay and the Duwamish River estuary would drain. But within two minutes the water would ricochet off the north shore of the bay and wash back eastward, flooding three square miles of low-lying areas.”

Not only that, but “a tsunami generated by an earthquake in the Seattle Fault could send up to 16 feet of water roaring ashore, swamping two marinas, inundating the Seattle Aquarium, Ivar’s Acres of Clams, Myrtle Edwards Park and the state ferry dock in what used to be tidelands downtown.”


And it wouldn’t take long to move. “Scientists say the tsunami could move from the west side of the bay to the city waterfront in as little as two minutes”.

And while Seattle hasn’t had such an earthquake-related wave strike the area in over 1,000 years, scientists say it will happen again, despite evidence that a magnitude 7.3 earthquake occurs once in every 2,500 years.

While all this speculation is frightening, it is best to be prepared if such an event were to happen, which is what scientists are and have been studying vigorously ever since the December 2005 tsunami that hit Southern Asia. They have been busy at work drawing up maps and projections which would predict the path of major tsunami’s in order to give residents all along the west coast time to evacuate if necessary. In fact, moments after the tsunami struck the the South Pacific, the National Weather Services in California and Oregon issued “Tsunami Advisories”, keeping the public on their toes just in case something were to happen here in the states.

To read the whole Seattle P.I. article, click here.

I wouldn’t get too worked up about something that dramatic happening, but it sure is comforting there are people out there working hard to warn us ahead of time if it does.

Keep all the disaster-affected families in your prayers! We ought to be thankful for the weather we have here…

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

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20 thoughts on “Could a Tsunami Someday Hit Seattle?

  1. WOW..this is amazing that two very strong quakes like that happened in such close time.

    I hate to say it,but its been too quiet here.

  2. well although it has been quiet there are still 1 or 2 tremors a day in the seattle area at around 1.5-2.5 to small to feel but they could be a sign

    P.S i saw the earthquake on an earthquake map website i have and when i saw it minutes after the tremor i knew it would generate a Tsunami

  3. but if there was a tsunami here the water would go into the montlake cut flooding areas alon there and go into lake washington and the tsunami and water would become higher in the montalke cut because there isnt as much surface to cover so the water would go higher

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