Changes in population evacuation potential for tsunami hazards in Seward, Alaska, since the 1964 Good Friday earthquake

Abstract

Pedestrian evacuation modeling for tsunami hazards typically focuses on current land-cover conditions and population distributions. To examine how post-disaster redevelopment may influence the evacuation potential of at-risk populations to future threats, we modeled pedestrian travel times to safety in Seward, Alaska, based on conditions before the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and tsunami disaster and on modern conditions. Anisotropic, path distance modeling is conducted to estimate travel times to safety during the 1964 event and in modern Seward, and results are merged with various population data, including the location and number of residents, employees, public venues, and dependent care facilities. Results suggest that modeled travel time estimates conform well to the fatality patterns of the 1964 event and that evacuation travel times have increased in modern Seward due to the relocation and expansion of port and harbor facilities after the disaster. The majority of individuals threatened by tsunamis today in Seward are employee, customer, and tourist populations, rather than residents in their homes. Modern evacuation travel times to safety for the majority of the region are less than wave arrival times for future tectonic tsunamis but greater than arrival times for landslide-related tsunamis. Evacuation travel times will likely be higher in the winter time, when the presence of snow may constrain evacuations to roads.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Geospatial Program and the USGS Land Change Science Program. Mara Tongue, Susan Benjamin, and Keith Kirk of the USGS, John Schelling of the State of Washington Military Department, and three anonymous reviewers gave insightful reviews of the manuscript. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

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Correspondence to Nathan J. Wood.

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Wood, N.J., Schmidtlein, M.C. & Peters, J. Changes in population evacuation potential for tsunami hazards in Seward, Alaska, since the 1964 Good Friday earthquake. Nat Hazards 70, 1031–1053 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-013-0859-8

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Keywords

  • Good Friday earthquake
  • Tsunami
  • Evacuation
  • Disaster
  • Modeling