Tsunami Information

What Is A Tsunami?

A tsunami is a series of sea waves most commonly caused by an earthquake beneath the sea floor or an underwater landslide.  As the waves enter shallow water, they may rise rapidly and inundate coastal areas with the potential of endangering lives and creating significant property damage.  The first wave is often not the largest, and waves may continue arriving for a number of hours. The time it takes for the waves to reach their destinations depends on where the earthquake occurs.

A far field or “Distant” tsunami is one that may be generated by a very large earthquake in remote areas of the Pacific Ocean. Since distant tsunamis such as this may take several hours to reach the Southern California coast following the event, they allow time for warnings to be issued to give coastal residents time to evacuate.

A near field or “Local” tsunami is one that can hit the coast within minutes following an offshore geological event. Residents of coastal communities probably will feel such an earthquake. This type of locally generated tsunami is possible at many points along the Southern California coast and provides little time for warning the population and less time for evacuation.

If you are near the coastline, an earthquake may be your only warning of an approaching tsunami, so it is VERY important to act quickly.

How Can I Prepare For A Tsunami?

If you feel an earthquake, duck, cover and hold until the shaking stops. Count how long the shaking lasts. If severe shaking lasts 20 seconds or more, a tsunami might follow. If you are at the beach and you notice the water has pulled back or run out, creating a vast expanse of exposed beach, this is a warning that a tsunami may be imminent.


Stay away from coastal or low-lying areas. Waves might continue for several hours and travel several times faster than you can walk, run or drive.

When you are that close, you will probably not escape the waves. Remember that a tsunami is a series of waves. Often the first wave may be the least dangerous. The waves may get progressively worse.

Use common sense. Do not endanger yourself by trying to surf a tsunami. Because they are not like regular waves, they are impossible to surf. They are much faster, higher and can come onshore filled with debris.

TSUNAMI WATCH: This means that a significant distant earthquake has occurred. Tsunami approach is not confirmed but is possible. Stay tuned to local radio and TV stations for information. Prepare for a possible Tsunami Warning.

TSUNAMI WARNING: This means that a tsunami approach has been confirmed. Stay tuned to local radio and TV stations for information and be prepared to evacuate if advised to do so by local authorities.

TSUNAMI EVACUATION: Those within the evacuation advisory area should immediately make their way to higher ground. Tsunami “Safe Areas” may be indicated by signs placed along roads at elevations of 90’ or more above sea level. Stay tuned to local radio and TV stations for information about local Evacuation Centers.


Tsunami Safe Areas:

If you are on a beach, a low-lying coastal area, or Pacific Coast Highway, make your way AT ONCE to higher ground (at least 90’ above Sea Level). Tune to local media for further information, and DO NOT RETURN TO COASTAL AREAS until the all clear signal has been given by public safety personnel. Local Evacuation Safe Areas include, but are not limited to:

Malibu Bluffs Park
Hughes Research Labs parking lot
Malibu Creek State Park
Salvation Army camps (behind Tapia Park)



Evacuation Routes: These routes provide access to communities away from coastal areas where shelter and support can be found.

Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Malibu Canyon Road
Kanan Road
Encinal Canyon Road
Mulholland Highway

Local Radio News Stations:

KNX 1070AM

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