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<b>EARLY WARNER:</b>  Bruce Caron, in 2007, proposed a blue line in downtown Santa Barbara showing the expected high-water mark due to global warming.

EARLY WARNER: Bruce Caron, in 2007, proposed a blue line in downtown Santa Barbara showing the expected high-water mark due to global warming.


Hell or High Water

A Major Earthquake in Alaska Would Send a Tsunami Down California


EARTHQUAKES AND GREENLAND MELT: It was April 1960. I’d just moved here and found an apartment at the beach end of Linden Avenue in Carpinteria. I soon moved on to Goleta with my wife and year-old son, little realizing that I’d been right in the path of a (gasp!) potential tsunami.

The apartment building is still there and still in the path of possible high water, according to a study just published by the U.S. Geological Survey. Researchers say a 9.1-level earthquake in Alaska would send punishing waves down the California coast.

Barney Brantingham

For one thing, the simulation showed that homes in certain areas of Carpinteria lower than 14 feet above sea level would likely be inundated, according to Julie Jeakle, Carpinteria emergency services coordinator. There are lots of variables however, she said.

On the good side, scientists say a tsunami like this is only likely to occur every several hundred years. But it could be tomorrow, couldn’t it? Who can predict earthquakes?

Meanwhile, Carpinteria is going through the process of becoming what’s known as a “tsunami city,” following guidelines that include evacuation routes and warning systems, Jeakle said. UCSB and the City of Santa Barbara are already tsunami cities, she said.

All this is not news to tri-counties emergency preparedness folks who huddled recently to evaluate the new study, which pretty much reiterated a 2009 study. But it was a stern reminder and a warning to the rest of us.

In case of an emergency, we’d get warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jeakle assured me. If I were still living at the foot of Linden Avenue, the water level at what Carpinteria calls “The World’s Safest Beach” would start rising fairly rapidly and I’d risk wet feet, or worse.

Under the study’s scenario, the first waves from Alaska would hit Crescent City, in the far north of California, in as little as four hours after the quake, according to the L.A. Times. Waves would hit San Diego about two hours later. We’re in the soggy middle, sort of. There’d be major flooding in Long Beach and parts of Orange County, and an estimated 750,000 people would have to evacuate those coastal areas.

Boats in marinas along the California coast would be damaged, sewage would foul the beaches, and an estimated 8,000 people would become homeless. Cost of the disaster could hit $8 billion. It’s not hard to see Santa Barbara’s crosstown freeway being gummed up.

(Maybe we should have let state highway officials put it up on steel stilts the way they wanted back in the 1950s.)

Remember the Santa Barbara blue line controversy back in 2007? Bruce Caron proposed painting an artistic 1,000-foot line downtown depicting how high the water would rise if Green­­land suffered a meltdown due to climate change.

The City Council okay’d the plan, but developers freaked. What about real estate values for sub–blue line properties? Then there was the $12,000 cost.

Amid all this furor, Caron withdrew his application. The City Council, seeing the writing on the wall, killed the plan. And now, tsunami or not, I don’t predict the council emerging from City Hall with dripping paint brushes.

Take a look at the study maps yourself at quake.ca.gov/gmaps/tsunami/SAFRR.htm.

WACKY TITLES: You’ll find some of the weirdest stuff you’ll ever paw through at the upcoming Planned Parenthood Book Sale September 19-29. Like this:

Butterflies Do Not Sleep in Hot Tubs: A Lawyer’s Tortured Search for Truth

There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves

The Pop-Up Book of Phobias

The Woman Who Swallowed a Toothbrush

If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead Yet?

The Zen of Bowel Movements: A Spiritual Approach to Constipation

Dating Without Novocaine

Please God Let It Be Herpes

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers

The 39th annual book sale, in memory of Mary Jane McCord, one of the longest-serving and most dedicated volunteers, will hold forth at Earl Warren Showgrounds.

Free admission ​— ​except for opening night on September 19, 5-9 p.m., when it costs $25 to get first crack at piles of best-sellers to antiquarian treasures and a chance to arm wrestle with book scouts trundling their carts around in search of deals. The tasty goodies alone are worth the price of admission. Call for info at 722-1522.

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