Mini-Seaside becomes test model for tsunami effects


A tsunami is headed for a miniature version of the city of Seaside in an Oregon State University research lab.

Scientists at the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory have built a small model of downtown Seaside to study the effects of a tsunami in a project that is likely to continue for years. It will encompass everything from numerical models to wave heights, to the amount of water that will remain after a significant event, to possible places of safety.

"It's an interesting project," said Solomon Yim, a professor of civil engineering and the primary researcher.

Seaside was chosen rather than other Oregon coastal cities partly because a report had been released with wave heights for a 500-year event in the Seaside area and the terrain is relatively flat and easy to reproduce in model form.

A Canadian production company interested in making a television show to study the effects of a tsunami on the Canadian coast also helped launch the project.

Laboratory Director Dan Cox suggested focusing on a city in Oregon.

He said that the civil infrastructure of Seaside, as well as the city's tsunami awareness, also made it a desirable location to study. "Seaside is sort of the model community for preparedness," Cox said.

The city also has features that are make it interesting to study.

"The Seaside beach was easy to model," said Yim. "The topography is interesting with the hotels, residential houses and 6-foot seawall. You don't see this elsewhere."

The lab will use its massive wave pool to "examine almost all possibilities" from "realistic waves and scenarios" to "tsunami 'proofing'" techniques. The Seaside footprint will be kept in the lab wave pool for quite some time, Yim said, and will be developed in more detail as time goes on.

He hopes other researchers from around the world will apply what is learned to other cities similar to Seaside.

Tracy Kijewski-Correa, director of a multi-university research program based at Notre Dame, recently visited Seaside to study its geology.

"The characteristics of Seaside are similar to Thailand," said Kijewski-Correa, who led a group of researchers to Thailand after their visit to the Oregon coast.

"Clearly, I think, we need to realize we're at risk and we need to get over the 'it's them, not us' mentality," said Kijewski-Correa.

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