By Karl Abrams

Venice now has its first Tsunami Evacuation street sign. On Monday morning, November 24, the first of 90 such signs went up on the west side of Pacific Avenue just north of Navy Street. The remaining signs are expected to be up as early as Thanksgiving. Councilperson Bill Rosendahl held a press conference on site and explained how the tsunami evacuation signs could save lives by directing people and traffic to higher and safer ground along a planned escape route. These signs would be especially crucial in directing and evacuating tourists on Ocean Front Walk who may be otherwise unfamiliar with Venice streets and confused during a tsunami emergency.

Rosendahl explained how the combined affect of Venice’s shallow bay, along with the shape of the coast, could lead to possible 8 feet waves propelled deep onshore by an unpredictable shift of the Santa Catalina underwater plates. “No one knows for sure how big such tsunami waves would be,” explained Rosendahl, “we estimate, until we have better clarity, that we’ll have 15 to 30 minutes to get out.” 

Rosendahl specifically thanked Jim Smith of the Beachhead for helping the sign project to reach a more timely implementation and promised he would immediately explore the possibility of placing a tsunami siren on the beach as first warning.

Richard Deppisch, LA’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator also spoke about the availability of $350,000 in funds, citywide, under the Urban Security Initiative Grant, to better prepare people in the event of a tsunami or earthquake. Cyndi Hench, a volunteer organizer from Westchester, also spoke of the importance of being prepared for such possible disasters.

Seismic tsunami waves have occurred in the past and may happen again. According to John Davis’ article, “It Can’t Happen Here?” (Beachhead, January ’05), a devastating tsunami wave struck the coast of Santa Barbara in 1812 and a 1964 “Alaskan wave swept down the Pacific seaboard, wiping out a lot of the proto-Marina del Rey.” Such tsunami waves would be especially dangerous in the Santa Monica Bay because of the way in which such waves would gather destructive energy by bouncing and reflecting around the bay.

On December 16, a Venice Neighborhood Council agenda item will be a “tsunami evacuation discussion” to clarify details of the escape route and the possible placement of new evacuation signs.

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