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Tsunami strikes Jersey Shore: Is US East Coast vulnerable to tsunamis? You bet!

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Without a doubt, the East Coast of the United States is extremely vulnerable to tsunamis. In fact, in June 2013, a tsunami hit the Jersey Shore in the state of New Jersey. This was not only verified by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but also recorded at tide gauges monitored by the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center and by more than 30 tide gauges and one DART buoy throughout the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean.

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This is the story as related by Brian Coen:

Around 3:30 p.m. that day, Brian Coen was spear fishing near the mouth of the Barnegat Inlet, a small inlet connecting the Barnegat Bay with the Atlantic Ocean. Coen was backing his boat out of the area when he suddenly saw an "outgoing tide with strong currents." The outgoing current continued for about two minutes until the rocks in the submerged breakwater were exposed. This action was followed by a large wave, about 6 ft. from peak to trough, rushing into and across the inlet, a wave so powerful that it swept several people off a rock jetty and into the water on Long Beach Island. Fortunately, all were rescued.

After hearing reports from witnesses, NOAA officials confirmed that a tsunami had indeed struck Long Beach Island that day. It was not caused by an earthquake. Officials say the "slumping at the continental shelf east of New Jersey" may have played a role, but the investigation continues.

Are East Coast coastal communities in jeopardy from tsunamis? You bet!

After the unexpected Jersey Shore tsunami, a team of scientists took a crucial step forward in NOAA’s effort to prepare U.S. coastal communities, including eastern Long Island, New York, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Daytona Beach, Fla., for potentially deadly tsunamis and storm-driven flooding. Scientists with NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, both based in Boulder, Colo., have created high-resolution digital elevation models, or DEMs, for the three cities.

The DEMs are constructed from near-shore seafloor depth and land elevation data to create a detailed representation of coastal relief. They provide the underlying framework necessary to accurately forecast the magnitude and extent of coastal flooding during a tsunami or storm surge event. Scientists have created DEMs for 20 US coastal communities and they expect to build more than 50 additional DEMs in the coming years.

Yes, tsunamis are a real threat to coastal communities not only in the United States, but across the world, as well. Developing the best possible Tsunami Warning System for this country is a priority.

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