M7.2 Earthquake near Alaska at 2am ET

There was a magnitude 7.2 near Alaska, resulting in a small – under one foot – tsunami along the Alaska coast, but no threat to the rest of the Pacific (including Hawaii). Economic impacts appear minor.

Earthquakes offshore have the potential to create a tsunami than can travel thousands of miles and are some of the most devastating natural disasters humanity faces. The 30 meter high (100ft) “Boxing Day” Tsunami (link to wikipedia article) created by the magnitude 9.1 earthquake in Indonesia on December 26, 2004, killed at least 227 thousand people (likely more) in 14 countries all across the Indian Ocean. Although they quickly overwhelm nearby areas, these waves take time to cross oceans and therefore with good warning systems people have a chance to evacuate. Hawai’i has such a system, and in theory most of the US coast could receive adequate warnings from approaching distant waves, but in practice I’m not so sure how well it would work. The problem with rare events like these is that the warning systems aren’t stress tested and you never really know how well they work until facing the real thing. Given how hard it is to evacuate for a hurricane, when you have days, using Savannah as an example, warning and evacuating everybody east of the Truman Parkway in just a few hours, as would be needed in some scenarios, seems really problematic.

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