The Risk Defined: Port of Alaska inside tsunami inundation zone, new study says
Scientists have confirmed a tsunami could put some areas of Anchorage underwater
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Scientists have confirmed a tsunami could put some areas of Anchorage underwater — if a large earthquake happens in the right place at the right time.
One impacted area is the Port of Alaska, which sits near sea level and on the edge of the water.
The Port’s Deputy Director for Resiliency Jim Jager said he’s not concerned about people at the port getting to safety in time during a tsunami, but instead about the unknown of what happens when structures are left to the mercy of the water.
“The scenarios that I’ve seen, we have hours of warning time, and you can get up the hill and out of the tsunami range in hours. The more interesting question is what happens to the physical port,” Jager said.
The port’s infrastructure is Anchorage — and Alaska’s — lifeline to the supply chain of the outside world.
“About three-quarters of the food and consumer goods consumed statewide crosses this dock, and then is distributed in Anchorage and around the whole state,” he said.
If the port shut down, Jager said that people would start to notice certain goods would be gone within just a few days.
“The state says somewhere between six and ten days until we would be more or less out of food,” Jager said.
But beyond the docks, there is a lot more that could happen at the port.
“We have all these yards with all these containers that if you have a tsunami come in, they’re going to wash somewhere,” Jager said.
The port facility is also a large storage facility for fuel and cement.
“We have 60,000 tons of cement storage here at the port. If that cement gets wet — cement and water, not a good combination — we will have basically lost our cement capacity. And if you lose the cement capacity, what does that do for reconstruction efforts,” Jager said.
Despite knowing there is a risk, there are still a lot of unknowns about what to do when disaster strikes.
“It’s going to depend on how big the wave is,” Jager said. “The event of a relatively small wave at low tide may not have a big impact on us. On the other hand, a large wave at high tide could potentially take the port out.”
But the risk is high enough. Jager said they need to begin preparing now as upgrades are made.
“Now, that doesn’t mean we’re going to have a tsunami-proof facility. But it will be a lot more resilient,” he said.
Stay with Alaska’s News Source this week as we take a closer look at the areas of Anchorage most at risk from a destructive tsunami and as we take a deep dive into how tsunamis are created, and how well the warning system is working for Anchorage. Tune in to Alaska’s News Source at 6 p.m.
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