Friday, September 25, 2009

Ore. workshops planned on tsunami buildings


CANNON BEACH, Ore. -- Should an earthquake generate a tsunami on the Oregon coast, there might be only 20 minutes to get to high ground.

But regional leaders, engineers and scientists plan to gather next week in Cannon Beach and Portland to talk about a different option - a tsunami evacuation building, or TEB.

Former Cannon Beach Mayor Jay Raskin, president of Ecola Architects, has designed a conceptual city hall building that could double as a TEB. Built of concrete, it would sit about 15 feet above the water on pilings, allowing water to flow under it. He says such a building would not only save lives but would allow city government to function after a disaster.

Japan has about a dozen such buildings that have been around 15 to 20 years, said Harry Yeh, the Edwards professor of coastal and ocean engineering at Oregon State University. But in other areas, the idea has not been popular, largely because tsunamis do not occur that often.

Last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released guidelines for the structures, sometimes referred to as vertical evacuation buildings.

The basic concept could be applied to even simpler structures, such as platforms that could be built in state parks and on beaches, said Yumei Wang, the geohazards team leader with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

"It would be like a glorified lifeguard chair," she said. "It would have to be concrete, very robust." The structures could do double duty as heliports or whale-watching platforms, Wang added.

Her design features five legs, a round top and numerous ladders.

"This is no frills thing," she said.

Raskin says the building he envisions might cost $4 million, double that of a traditional building.

"We are trying to get the information to go to our citizens and say we want to do this and this is how much it is going to cost," he said. "We know it is a lot more expensive, but it needs to be done. We need to figure out the funding."

And he adds, "We've invited the visitors to the coast and we need to keep them safe."

Do Tsunami Evacuation Buildings Make Sense For Oregon Coast?

Portland, OR September 24, 2009 12:25 p.m.

Policy makers and engineers are meeting in Portland and Cannon Beach this week to discuss the need for tsunami evacuation buildings. Kristian Foden-Vencil reports.
A tsunami evacuation building is a building that’s been put on stilts - so that when a tsunami hits, people can stay above the water.

They’ve been built in Japan, but there are none along the U.S. coastline.
Althea Turner of Oregon Emergency Management says FEMA is realizing that the traditional message of “go inland and uphill,” isn’t enough in towns like Cannon Beach and Seaside.

Althea Turner: “We have 10 maybe 15 minutes in the case of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami and that’s just not long enough for individuals to get from the water front to high ground.

Cannon Beach is considering turning its city hall into a tsunami evacuation building, but deep foundations and concrete pillars make it much more expensive.