Recent disasters highlight the threat that tsunamis pose to coastal communities. When developing tsunami-education efforts and vertical-evacuation strategies, emergency managers need to understand how much time it could take for a coastal population to reach higher ground before tsunami waves arrive. To improve efforts to model pedestrian evacuations from tsunamis, we examine the sensitivity of least-cost-distance models to variations in modeling approaches, data resolutions, and travel-rate assumptions. We base our observations on the assumption that an anisotropic approach that uses path-distance algorithms and accounts for variations in land cover and directionality in slope is the most realistic of an actual evacuation landscape. We focus our efforts on the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington (USA), where a substantial residential and tourist population is threatened by near-field tsunamis related to a potential Cascadia subduction zone earthquake. Results indicate thousands of people are located in areas where evacuations to higher ground will be difficult before arrival of the first tsunami wave. Deviations from anisotropic modeling assumptions substantially influence the amount of time likely needed to reach higher ground. Across the entire study, changes in resolution of elevation data has a greater impact on calculated travel times than changes in land-cover resolution. In particular areas, land-cover resolution had a substantial impact when travel-inhibiting waterways were not reflected in small-scale data. Changes in travel-speed parameters had a substantial impact also, suggesting the importance of public-health campaigns as a tsunami risk-reduction strategy.
Additional publication details
Anisotropic path modeling to assess pedestrian-evacuation potential from Cascadia-related tsunamis in the US Pacific Northwest