Skip to main content

New Maps Show Tsunami Risk Zones In San Diego County

Holly Crawford, director of San Diego County’s Office of Emergency Services, ...

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: Holly Crawford, director of San Diego County’s Office of Emergency Services, speaks during a news conference about preparing for tsunamis, on March 26, 2014 at La Jolla Shores.

San Diego emergency officials and geologists teamed up at La Jolla Shores on Wednesday to unveil new tsunami flood zone and evacuation maps. The maps and information materials were mailed to 30,000 residents and businesses this week as part of Tsunami Preparedness Week.

Photo credit: San Diego County Office Of Emergency Services

Using new information developed by California disaster experts, San Diego County for the first time targeted specific addresses that could be at risk in a tsunami.

If a large tsunami struck near San Diego County, hundreds of thousands of people who live, work and play along the region’s 70 miles of coastline could be in danger.

Rick Wilson, senior engineering geologist with California Geological Survey, said San Diego County is fortunate that it doesn't have large off-shore subduction zone faults that create magnitude-9 earthquakes.

"But we do have faults that can cause submarine landslides, and those landslides can trigger tsunamis," Wilson warned.

Wilson said the state has been impacted by 13 tsunamis over the past 150 years; two occurred in the last four years, including the Japan tsunami in March 2011.

That’s why San Diego County officials and tsunami researchers have mapped out which addresses in the county are at risk of flooding.

"And potential evacuation routes where they can flee in the case of an approaching tsunami," said Holly Crawford, San Diego County’s Office of Emergency Services director.

Crawford said far away quakes would allow several minutes to several hours of evacuation time, but nearby quakes would give very little warning.

Crawford said it’s important for everyone to know the tsunami warning signs.

"If the earth shakes for 20 seconds, that’s a really significant earthquake. You need to leave the coast, go to a place that’s at least 100 feet above sea level or two miles inland if you can’t evacuate vertically," Crawford said.

Other signs of a tsunami include a receding shoreline and a large ocean roaring sound.

Crawford urged San Diego County residents to register their mobile phones at to receive emergency notifications.


San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.