Engineers Unveil 1st US Tsunami Building Standards In Portland

Sep 29, 2016

When constructing a building to cope with forces like wind shear, engineers follow national standards. But until now, the U.S. had no such standard for tsunamis.

The American Society of Civil Engineers on Wednesday told builders what forces to expect from tsunamis, like floating shipping containers washing into a building at 25 miles per hour.

Professor Daniel Cox at Oregon State University's school of civil engineering said he's "thrilled" with the new standards.

AP Images

A recent story in the New Yorker, which draws from the latest geological science,  says that within 50 years there's a good chance a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami will destroy a sizable portion of the Pacific Northwest and potentially kill 13,000 people in the process.

And according to, "The Really Big One," the odds of this Cascadia quake within five decades are one in three for a large quake and one in ten for a more massive one. 

So KPLU asked people on the streets of Seattle if they’re concerned about an earthquake and what, if anything, they’ve done to prepare for it. Click on the audio link (above) to hear their comments.


Three years ago today, a massive earthquake ripped through Japan, and the resulting tsunami sent thousands of tons of debris floating toward North America.

But a tsunami could also happen right along the Northwest coast, on the Cascadia subduction zone, which stretches from northern Vancouver Island to California’s Cape Mendocino.