web counter Media Lies: Predictable inanity

Saturday, January 01, 2005

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Predictable inanity

Any time a major event occurs, you can almost set your watch by the stories that will follow, quoting experts predicting all sorts of dire consequences from similar future events. Thus a tsunami in Southeast Asia triggers the inevitable aftershock in Texas. Horror of all horrors, Texas is not prepared for a tsunami.
Volcano-induced tsunamis, which occur when huge amounts of heaped-up volcanic material slide into the sea, have occurred innumerable times with local effects. But one will happen with catastrophic impact, scientists believe, during a future eruption of a big volcano such as Cumbre Vieja in the Canary Islands off of northwestern Africa.

The tsunami from the predicted collapse of Cumbre Vieja, fanning out across the Atlantic at about 500 mph, would drown Florida within nine hours with waves from 33 to 82 feet high, according to a 2001 estimate by scientists at the University of California and London's University College. That's enough to put nearly all of Florida under water and damage the whole Atlantic coastline.
I'm no scientist, but unless you have enough cargo planes to evacuate the entire state of Florida in eight hours, I'm thinking some folks are going to drown.

Texas is in danger too.
An undersea landslide - technically, a "slump" - about 90 miles off Galveston once sent some 12 to 14 cubic miles of earth sliding down. The slump at the gulf's East Breaks formation threw a tsunami estimated at 25 feet high onto the Texas shoreline, according to researchers who have studied its geological aftermath on the gulf floor.

That was about 5,000 to 10,000 years ago - many lifetimes for humans, but a blink in geological time. Peter Trabant, a marine hazards consultant in Houston who has studied the landslide, said there's no reason to believe that it won't happen again.
There's just one problem.
But a landslide-induced tsunami might offer no warning at all. Earthquake monitoring systems wouldn't pick it up, experts say. So the first time the public knows about the tsunami might be when it slams into the shore.

"You can't detect them," said Harry Woodworth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "You don't have much time to react."
So, your advice is?
Train lifeguards to recognize the sudden rise or fall in sea level that would signal an oncoming tsunami. "It might give enough time to get people out of the water and off the beach, at least," he said.
Yep! You read it here first folks. Train lifeguards to yell, "RUN!!!"

That's our plan, and we're stickin' to it.