Tsunami in Gulf of Mexico rare, but officials still preparing - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Tsunami in Gulf of Mexico rare, but officials still preparing


When Rickey Hampton decided to rebuild his home and three rental properties at Holly Beach, he was fully prepared for the threat of future hurricanes. However, Hampton said he's never really considered the threat of a tsunami.

"I hope they don't ever come here. Hurricanes are bad enough," said Hampton.

Though rare, the National Weather Service of Lake Charles is preparing. Wednesday they held a Tsunami Exercise Drill to discuss different scenarios that could play out in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's probably like a one in 1,000 chance. But it's still a very high impact event. So even though it's low probability, it's a high impact event so we still have to prepare for that," said Joe Rua, National Weather Service of Lake Charles Tsunami Program Manager & Forecaster.

Tsunamis can be triggered by a number of events including volcanic activity and earth quakes, but Rua said the biggest threat for the Gulf of Mexico are submarine landslides or shifting of sediment along the Continental Shelf.

If a tsunami did hit we would have little to no warning. According to experts we would maybe have a warning of two to five hours if we are lucky. Rua explained the first area long Louisiana's Gulf coast to be hit would likely be the Grand Isle area. After that the central Louisiana coast, then Cameron and Holly Beach would eventually feel the impact.

Before the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami there were only two tsunami warning systems. Within the last 10 years several other countries have got on board and created their own. There's even a warning buoy system in the Gulf of Mexico that measures any sudden change in pressure.  

"I would like to know more about it. I'm sure people living in this low land area would like to know also. As far as tsunamis and hurricanes - all we know now is evacuation. That's about all you can do," said Hampton.

For now residents living at Holly Beach are enjoying life with hurricanes and tsunamis out of sight, but not entirely out of mind.

"I like to say tsunamis are rare, but let's still prepare. That's what we want to do," said Rua.

There is a buoy warning system in the Gulf of Mexico located southeast of New Orleans. It's designed to send data back if there is a rapid change in pressure that would cause a tsunami. However, the buoy is currently out of commission and in need of funding to be repaired.

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