Tsunami experts prepare for waves
UH, the Army Corps of Engineers and Civil Defense are making an inundation map
Preparing for a tsunami takes many forms: updating evacuation maps, developing courses for students, creating a text messaging system to warn deaf people and simulating a past disaster.
As part of April's Tsunami Awareness Month in Hawaii, officials held a news briefing yesterday at the Civil Defense Emergency Operating Center at Diamond Head to discuss the steps they are taking to prepare for a tsunami.
To update Hawaii's evacuation maps, Kwok Fai Cheung, a professor of the University of Hawaii's Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering, along with several graduate and postdoctoral students, created a new tsunami inundation computer model with topographic data provided by the Army Corps of Engineers.
A light-detection and ranging system, or LiDAR, was used by the Corps of Engineers to obtain high-resolution topographic data for all islands. Cheung said the data on land elevation is essential for the computer model to determine how far inland tsunami waves will reach.
"If you don't know the elevation of the land, the results won't be meaningful," he said.
Civil Defense allocated $700,000 to work with the Army Corps of Engineers for the LiDAR system. In addition, $450,000 in grant money from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program was allocated to Cheung and his team to create the model.
The inundation model is expected to be completed by early April. Thereafter, Civil Defense will review it to determine whether evacuation maps need to be adjusted. A couple of Oahu evacuation maps are expected to be completed by the end of the year, said Ed Teixeira, Civil Defense vice director.
While the data are being finalized, residents can go to the state Civil Defense Web site -- www.scd.hawaii.gov -- to see maps of the tsunami inundation zones.
A curriculum for students in the third, sixth and ninth grades was created by the Pacific Tsunami Museum. About $275,000 in grant money from NOAA was released last year to create the curriculum. The material, which is under review, outlines the measures people can take to protect themselves and their families, said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, adjutant general and state Civil Defense director.
A text messaging system also was created by Civil Defense to inform deaf people, government officials and emergency responders about a tsunami watch or warning. The system involves sending text messages via e-mail, cellular phones and pagers.
Operations Branch Chief Victor Gustafson said they have been working on the system for less than a month and hope to test it during an upcoming tsunami exercise. So far, about 43 deaf people are in the system. Officials hope to increase that figure. About $180,000 in funding was appropriated from the Department of Homeland Security for the pilot program, Teixeira said.
Next Tuesday, the 62nd anniversary of the tsunami that killed 159 people mostly on the Big Island, state Civil Defense will conduct a tsunami exercise.
Tsunami exercises are conducted twice a year in April and October.
Tsunami awareness month
Here are some upcoming activities and events for April's Tsunami Awareness Month in Hawaii:
» Sunday: 830 AM KHVH Radio, "Community Matters Show" with Mike Buck, "Tsunami Talk Story" with Gerard Fryer, Walter Dudley, John Cummings, 6 p.m.
» Next Tuesday: State tsunami exercise will take place among city and state officials and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
» April 5: "Mad About Science Day," Bishop Museum, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. NOAA tent will include tsunami information and children activities. Also, a presentation called "Tsunamis: Waves of Destruction," by Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, will be held. Images will be projected on Science on a Sphere, Bishop Museum.
» April 12: Earth Day, Waikiki Aquarium. Activities and presentations. Free admission from 9 a.m. to noon.
» April 13-14: Twentieth annual Pacific Rim Conference on Disabilities, tsunami preparedness workshop, displays, Sheraton Waikiki from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
» April 19-20: NOAA table at the Fifth Annual Kokua Festival, Waikiki Shell, will include tsunami preparedness information from 2:30 to 5 p.m.
» Next Tuesday: KHBC 1060 AM Radio. A minute-to-minute broadcast of the 1946 tsunami, 6:30 a.m.
» April 19: Hilo Disaster Fair, Crest Building; speakers, displays, tsunami preparedness information, sponsored by Connections Public Charter School and Pacific Tsunami Museum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Thursday, April 17, 2008
» Kwok Fai Cheung is a professor at the University of Hawaii’s Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering. A Page A3 story on March 25 on tsunami preparedness incorrectly identified Cheung as chairman of the department.