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Connecting the coastline

Dan Abramson speaking to a crowd in a high school gymnasium

WESTPORT, Wash. — Each October, during the Great ShakeOut, students duck beneath their desks to drop, cover and hold — what kids in earthquake-prone regions are drilled to do when shaking and tremors begin.

Along the Washington coastline, in addition to preparing for earthquakes, students also learn to get ready for the impending disaster brought by a tsunami. Just outside of Westport, students in the Ocosta School District are taught to seek refuge atop a 53-foot-high vertical evacuation tower, the first such structure built in the U.S., carefully engineered to withstand a tsunami wave reaching four stories high.

Westport, a stunning peninsula at the south entrance to Grays Harbor, is known for its sandy beaches, sprawling marina and a century-old fishing industry. But proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the shifting tectonic plates below bring the risk of total devastation.

When the “big one” hits — a magnitude 9.0 or higher Cascadia subduction zone earthquake — researchers and officials predict that within minutes of the shaking a wall of water reaching 40 feet tall will inundate the coastline, including Westport.

Read the full For Washington story