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Beat-the-wave evacuation mapping for tsunami hazards in Seaside, Oregon, USA

A Correction to this article was published on 11 January 2018

This article has been updated


Previous pedestrian evacuation modeling for tsunamis has not considered variable wave arrival times or critical junctures (e.g., bridges), and did not effectively communicate multiple evacuee travel speeds. We summarize an approach that identifies evacuation corridors, recognizes variable wave arrival times, and produces a map of minimum pedestrian travel speeds to reach safety, termed a “beat-the-wave” (BTW) evacuation analysis. We demonstrate the improved approach by evaluating difficulty of pedestrian evacuation of Seaside, Oregon, for a local tsunami generated by a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake. We establish evacuation paths by calculating the least-cost distance (LCD) to safety for every grid cell in a tsunami hazard zone using geospatial, anisotropic path distance algorithms. Minimum BTW speed to safety on LCD paths is calculated for every grid cell by dividing surface distance from that cell to safety by the tsunami arrival time at safety. We evaluated three scenarios of evacuation difficulty: (1) all bridges are intact with a 5-min evacuation delay from the start of earthquake, (2) only retrofitted bridges are considered intact with a 5-min delay, and (3) only retrofitted bridges are considered intact with a 10-min delay. BTW maps also take into account critical evacuation points along complex shorelines (e.g., peninsulas, bridges over shore-parallel estuaries) where evacuees could be caught by tsunami waves. The BTW map is able to communicate multiple pedestrian travel speeds, which are typically visualized by multiple maps with current LCD-based mapping practices. Results demonstrate that evacuation of Seaside is problematic seaward of the shore-parallel waterways for those with any limitations on mobility. Tsunami vertical evacuation refuges or additional pedestrian bridges may be effective ways of reducing loss of life seaward of these waterways.

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Change history

  • 11 January 2018

    Due to a procedural error in construction of Figs. 8 and 9, listed minimum speeds to beat the tsunami wave in areas of Seaside seaward of Neawanna Creek are too high. The two figures should be replaced by the new figures below.





Cascadia subduction zone


Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


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This project was funded under award #NA13NWS4670013 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program and by the US Geological Survey Land Change Science Program. We thank Mara Tongue and Jeanne Jones of the USGS, Mathew Schmidtlein of California State University Sacramento and two anonymous reviewers for their 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 George R. Priest.

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Priest, G.R., Stimely, L.L., Wood, N.J. et al. Beat-the-wave evacuation mapping for tsunami hazards in Seaside, Oregon, USA. Nat Hazards 80, 1031–1056 (2016).

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  • Tsunami evacuation difficulty
  • Seaside, Oregon
  • Anisotropic path distance
  • Cascadia
  • Earthquake