Awareness Information

Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC) is responsible for tsunami warnings for California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) is responsible for providing warnings to international authorities, Hawaii, and U. S territories within the Pacific basin. The 2 Tsunami Warning Centers coordinate the information being disseminated.

All tsunamis are potentially dangerous, even though they may not damage every coastline they strike. Damaging tsunamis are very rare. Our coastlines are vulnerable, but tsunamis are infrequent. Understand the hazard and learn how to protect yourself, but don't let the threat of tsunamis ruin your enjoyment of the beach.

The WC/ATWC and PTWC may issue the following bulletins:
  • Warning: A tsunami was or may have been generated, which could cause damage; therefore, people in the warned area are strongly advised to evacuate.
  • Watch: A tsunami was or may have been generated, but is at least two hours travel time to the area in watch status. Local officials should prepare for possible evacuation if their area is upgraded to a warning.
  • Advisory: An earthquake has occurred in the Pacific basin, which might generate a tsunami. WC/ATWC and PTWC will issue hourly bulletins advising of the situation.
  • Information: A message with information about an earthquake that is not expected to generate a tsunami. Usually only one bulletin is issued.
Tsunami Warning Signs
Be familiar with the tsunami warning signs. A strong earthquake lasting 20 seconds or more near the coast may generate a tsunami. A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters is also a sign that a tsunami is approaching.
Tsunamis most frequently come onshore as a rapidly rising turbulent surge of water choked with debris. They are not V-shaped or rolling waves, and are not "surfable."

Tsunamis may be locally generated or from a distant source. In 1992, the Cape Mendocino, California, earthquake produced a tsunami that reached Eureka in about 20 minutes, and Crescent City in 50 minutes (. Although this tsunami had a wave height of about 1 foot and was not destructive, it illustrates how quickly a wave can arrive at nearby coastal communities and how long the danger can last.