New tsunami hazard maps highlight threat facing seven California counties — even Napa is vulnerable
In an early morning phone poll, a CBS News/New York Times survey of a number of Bay Area counties — including Napa and Sonoma in the central and northern parts of the state — found that the voters were far less concerned about the dangers of a major earthquake occurring in the area than by the possibility that a tsunami with potentially devastating consequences for the bay could hit California.
While the survey found that all seven counties had received increased attention from officials following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, it was Sonoma County in the north that had the most in-depth analysis of its specific vulnerability. In fact, it has already made changes to its evacuation plan in the wake of both the earthquake and the predicted tsunami, which could arrive in the time frame of the next several days.
“We have an evacuation plan and we’ve got to be ready,” said Scott Sisson, the mayor of Fort Bragg, the tiny community located at the northern tip of Sonoma County. “Our only safety is really in our own homes.”
The first quake did not cause any damage in Sonoma County, but its location in an area where the fault that links the Pacific to the North American plate can generate a devastating seismic event is an undeniable risk. The city sits in a relatively shallow basin between two tectonic plate boundaries that are more than 130 miles from the nearest ocean.
“Sonoma County has been under siege by earthquakes since the first earthquake,” said Bob Williams, the chief of the emergency management staff for Sonoma County. “There’s probably no more earthquake-ready place in California.”
The epicenter of the recent earthquake was in Japan, but the effects lingered for days after the temblor hit. In the days that followed, Sisson said that his agency and some residents conducted evacuation drills in the days that followed.
“Evacuation is really our first line of defense,” he said. “We need to be ready to do it the second day after that. What we need to do is be prepared and be aware. The longer the evacuation takes out of the area, the greater the risk.”
Many coastal communities are already evacuating as California prepares for a potential tsunami, but with an earthquake also looming, some residents in Son