What is a Tsunami?
A tsunami isn’t a wind driven wave. It’s better understood as a new and suddenly higher sea level. It also has greater force than a breaking wave or swell. Earthquake-induced movement of the ocean floor most often causes tsunamis, although rapid displacement of water, landslides, volcanic eruptions, and meteorite impacts can also cause them.
The City of Victoria is not at high risk of a damaging tsunami as other areas of Vancouver Island are.
Learn more about tsunami preparedness with this helpful brochure. Check to see if "you're in the zone" and what you can do to be tsunami ready. The brochure includes a map of Victoria's tsunami hazard zones.
Tsunami modelling of our region after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake has shown us that the maximum water level will be 3 metres with a maximum water flow speed of 1 metre per second. In comparison, the 2011 Tohoku tsunami in Japan that was triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, had a maximum water level of 40 metres with a maximum water flow speed of 12 metres per second.
What Will Happen in Victoria
The City of Victoria is not at risk like coastal communities on the open water are such as Tofino and Ucluelet, who have sirens in place. We do not expect a large fast “wave” like we’ve seen in places like Thailand and Japan. What the tsunami modelling shows for the City of Victoria is a slow water level rise, of approximately 1.5 to 3 metres.
We have the resources in place to issue tsunami warnings without a siren due to the lower risk, the slow water level rise, and the length of warning time we will receive after an earthquake has occurred. Our emergency responders have the capacity to go door-to-door and use loud speakers to the small areas within the City of Victoria that the tsunami modelling has shown the water level will rise to.
Tsunami Hazard Mapping for Victoria
Below is a map of the tsunami hazard zones in Victoria. You can also view it on VicMap.
View local tsunami hazard mapping on VicMap to zoom in. Click on I want to… turn map data on/off and then select the Emergency Services layer.
What to Know and Do
When an earthquake occurs, Drop, Cover and Hold On until the shaking stops. Count to 60 and then move away from beaches and low-lying areas to higher ground immediately. Higher ground means two blocks inland from beaches and waterways or to the third floor of a building. See the Tsunami Hazard Map above to see if you are in an impacted zone.
If an earthquake lasts for more than 60 seconds or makes it difficult to stand, move away from low-lying areas and beaches as a tsunami may follow. (Graphic courtesy of PreparedBC.)
Tsunamis originating some distance away in the Pacific Ocean may not be preceded by a "felt earthquake" in Victoria. When notification of a "distant tsunami" is issued, local emergency officials have several hours to notify citizens located close to beaches and low-lying areas to move to higher ground. In Victoria, tsunami waves caused by distant earthquakes may impact the same beaches, shorelines and coastal properties that are regularly affected by serious winter storms.
Other Signs of a Tsunami
Other signs of a tsunami may include the ocean receding, a sudden rise or fall in sea level, or a roaring sound coming from the ocean. Evacuate to higher ground immediately if you experience any of these signs.
Tsunami notifications that could be issued in Victoria include:
There is an imminent threat of a tsunami or confirmation that a tsunami wave has been generated for Victoria. This is the highest and most serious level of tsunami notification.
What to do? Those residing in low-lying coastal areas are to move to higher ground immediately and take their emergency kit with them.
There is an expectation of strong currents and/or low amplitude wave activity in Victoria.
What to do? Stay off local beaches, marinas and harbours.
An early alert that is based on the analysis of an event. It may be cancelled or upgraded to a warning or an advisory.
What to do? Those residing in low-lying coastal areas should be prepared to move to higher ground in the event the tsunami watch is upgraded to an advisory or warning.
Be Tsunami Smart
Emergency Management BC has some helpful tips on how to "Be Tsunami Smart".
For the latest information on an earthquake or tsunami in BC, follow Emergency Management BC on Twitter @EmergencyInfoBC for emergency alerts and updates.
Sign up for Vic-Alert, the City of Victoria's new emergency notification service. Receive alerts and updates by text, phone or email on emergencies that may impact you.
The public is advised to monitor local media outlets for emergency updates.
Everyday readiness for every person, every business, every organization.
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