The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office is reminding residents that the week of March 22 has been declared Tsunami Preparedness and Awareness Week by the state and federal government. Last month’s earthquake in Chile, which triggered a tsunami advisory in the Bay Area, serves as a reminder for the need to be prepared in the event of a tsunami, sheriff’s officials said. A tsunami is a series of waves usually caused by an earthquake under the ocean floor. Various tsunami scenarios present different threat levels to the San Mateo County coast. A distant source tsunami is the most probable, which is caused by a great quake somewhere along the Pacific rim, such as the earthquake in Chile. In that case, emergency personnel will have several hours to warn the public and evacuate coastal areas, sheriff’s officials said. Another and more severe scenario is a local source tsunami, in which a major local earthquake ruptures the ocean floor or causes an undersea landslide off the San Mateo County coast. Though less probable, sheriff’s officials advise residents to know what to do in advance, as there would be little to no time for any official warning to the public. The first waves from a local source tsunami could hit within minutes of a quake. Two warning signs that a tsunami is on its way are difficulty to stand during the quake and a rapidly receding tide, according to sheriff’s officials. If those are experienced, residents should move to higher ground immediately without waiting for an official warning. For more information about tsunami or emergency preparedness, visit www.smcready.org.
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