Today’s factismal: The world’s highest recorded wave was taller than the Empire State Building and hit Lituya Bay 55 years ago today.
If you live in rural Alaska, there’s not much excitement outside of the occasional moose sighting. But if you had lived in Lituya Bay on July 9, 1955, you would have gotten enough excitement for a lifetime (assuming that you lived through the experience). That morning, a strong 8.3 M earthquake hit about 13 miles from the bay; the event was so strong that it was felt as far away as Seattle. Along with shaking the region like the devil’s maraca, the earthquake caused a large part of the side of the Lituya mountain to slide into the bay, creating a megatsunami.
That wave of water measured 1,720 ft tall – higher than the Empire State building! It swept up the narrow bay, leaving nothing in its wake but crushed trees and ruined houses. Fortunately, Lituya Bay was only sparsely populated; only five people were killed. However, many of the same conditions that led to this megatsunami are present elsewhere, most notoriously in the Puget Sound region.
So what can you do? Other than “evacuating vertically” (that is, finding the tallest building you can and heading for the top floor), perhaps the best thing you can do if you are in an earthquake or tsunami is to tweet about it. That’s because the USGS has started monitoring Twitter, looking for early evidence of earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis to that they can help coordinate rescue efforts. So if you’d like to take part, just wait for the next time that the earth shakes and then tweet about it!