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What You Should Know About Tsunamis

The 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan triggered tsunamis across Japan and launched warning and watches in Russia, Guam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Hawaii. Here are some important facts about Tsunamis and how they are formed.

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  • A tsunami is a series of sea waves. Tsunami comes from the Japanese word for harbor wave.

  • Tsunamis are created through undersea disturbances (like earthquakes and volcanoes).

    It's like if you dropped a big rock into the water. The same principle is in use.

  • Tsunami waves can be very long (as much as 60 miles, or 100 kilometers) and be as far as one hour apart.

  • Most tsunamis, about 80 percent, happen within the Pacific Oceans Ring of Fire, a geologically active area where tectonic shifts make volcanoes and earthquakes common.

  • Flooding can reach land 1000 feet (300 meters) from the coastline and the dangerous waves have enough force to lift giant boulders, flip vehicles, and demolish houses.

  • The destructive force of a tsunami comes not from the height of the wave, but from the volume of water moving. It is as if the ocean floods the coast, smashing everything in its path, and then just as quickly recedes.

  • The state at the highest risk of a tsunami is Hawaii. Hawaii is struck about once a year, with a particularly damaging one every seven years.