A mini tsunami, which experts have identified as a “sneaker wave,” occurred along the Pacific Beach area of the Washington Coast last weekend. Residents of the Joe Creek area and beach captured footage showing the freak wave coming in and filling up the entire creek and beach. According to witnesses, the wave carried heavy logs and debris. Several unwary local residents were injured in the wave that surged faster than anyone could run to escape.
“Multiple people were rolled and injured by this very fast surge,”Brian Ritter, a local firefighter, told King5 News. “These waves pack huge logs and debris traveling at dangerous speeds, causing major traumatic injuries.”
The incident occurred amid persistent fears in Pacific Northwest communities about a mega-earthquake and tsunami that experts say is overdue following evidence that a major earthquake has occurred over the nearby Cascadia Fault about once every 240 years.
The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a fault line located about seventy miles off the Pacific Northwest Coast. It stretches about 700 miles along the Pacific Northwest Coast from California to Washington and Vancouver in Canada.
Fears on the edge of panic in anticipation of a devastating massive earthquake and tsunami surged in recent days following a January 17 report by the website Superstation5, that the Juan de Fuca microplate had slipped beneath the North American plate at the Cascadia Subduction zone and that the event could trigger a devastating earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific Northwest region.
The report came before the January 19 eruptions of two large volcanoes — Mount Egon in Kupang, eastern Indonesia, and the Zhupanovsky volcano in Russia’s eastern coast — that forced the evacuation of 1,200 Indonesians.
According to Superstation5, an ocean buoy operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC), located in the region of the Juan de Fuca plate and the Cascadia Subduction Zone, recorded a sharp drop in water level indicating an imminent catastrophic earthquake that could trigger a tsunami disaster.
The report by Superstation5, which went viral and spread panic, came soon after the mini-tsunami at Joe Creek and beach near Pacific Beach (see video below) on January 16.
The mini-tsunami had sparked fears among some residents that the anticipated “big one” had come. Experts with the National Weather Service in Seattle, the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, moved to allay fears, saying that the “tsunami” was only a “sneaker wave.”
Sneaker waves, according to NWS experts, could be triggered by storms or other major atmospheric disturbances occurring in other places in the Pacific. Although NWS experts said “sneaker waves” were fairly common on the West Coast, they acknowledged that the latest one was unusually large.
However, for a population already on the edge due to anticipation of a “big one,” subsequent news that an ocean buoy had recorded evidence of imminent massive earthquake and tsunami that could devastate the entire American Northwest quickly created a wave of panic that spread on social media.
According to the report by Superstation5, the sharp drop in water level recorded by the ocean buoy was a warning of impending catastrophe because it signals a “land sink” that often precedes a severe earthquake.
“A tectonic plate in the Ocean, named the ‘Juan de Fuca Plate,’ has made a sudden, eastward movement and slipped beneath another tectonic plate named the ‘North American Plate.’ This type of event is usually followed by a massive upward movement of the North American Plate causing a very severe earthquake,” the website reported.
The website then went on to quote a previous statement, attributed to Kenneth Murphy, director of FEMA’s Region X that covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.
“If such a thing (earthquake and tsunami researchers believe occured in 1700) were to happen today, thousands of people would be killed as a wall of water came ashore well inland passing Interstate 5 and destroying everything in its path from the beach to Interstate 5.”
John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, dismissed the Superstation5 report, saying that a measurement on one instrument was not sufficient to conclude that a mega-earthquake incident was imminent.
“The claim that the water level changed isn’t right. It was clearly misinformation that was presented as news,” he said. “Just like seismometers, what you see on one instrument is hugely considered unreliable and no other instrument showed anything, and the people watching these instruments immediately flagged it to ignore because it’s so unlikely to be real.”
Chris Goldfinger, professor at Oregon State University, who directs the Active Tectonics and Seafloor Mapping Laboratory, also dismissed the report, saying, “The buoy is on the Juan De Fuca Ridge flank, not in the subduction zone, so I’d guess this might be a magma chamber deflation event.”
Superstation5 stood by its report, insisting in a January 21 article that it was based on official data. The website also claimed that the mini tsunami that occurred in Joe Creek in the Pacific Beach area on January 16, and the earthquake that allegedly hit Portland, Oregon within eight hours of the website’s report, were evidence of the report’s accuracy.
Despite efforts to allay fears, experts have admitted that the region is in imminent danger of a major earthquake. The Inquisitr reported in July 2015 that experts warned of an impending major earthquake in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, due to rupture of the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
According to FEMA, a major earthquake has occurred over the Cascadia Fault on the average of about once every 240 years, with the last major event occurring in 1700, about 300 years ago. Thus, in theory, the next major quake is overdue.
[Photo By Don Ryan/AP]