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captain's gig
12-29-2004, 08:35 PM
N.E. is not immune, scientists warn

By Beth Daley, Globe Staff | December 28, 2004

Three hours after an offshore earthquake shook Canada in 1929, three giant ocean surges hurtled onto Newfoundland's coast at 78 miles per hour. Twenty-nine people were killed by the estimated 20-foot waves, and entire villages were dismantled as pulses from the tsunami reverberated as far away as Portugal.

Today, the Burin Peninsula disaster serves as a poignant reminder that eastern North America is not immune to the devastating force of a tsunami. Fearsome ocean surges of the kind that killed thousands in Asia this week are far more common in the Pacific, but they have the potential to cause widespread devastation along New England's coast.

''Just because they don't happen [that often] doesn't mean there is no risk or hazard to the New England coast," said Klaus Jacob, senior scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York. There are no records of a tsunami hitting New England's coast during modern times, and Jacob estimates that a tsunami of the strength that hit in 1929 has lower than a 1-in-1,000 chance of occurring in eastern North America in any given year. ''Still, it can happen virtually anywhere along the North America coast," he said.

Scientists do know that the 1929 tsunami was triggered by a 7.2 earthquake about 11 miles below the seafloor south of the Burin Peninsula on the south coast of Newfoundland. It was felt as far away as New England and Montreal.

Twelve trans-Atlantic telegraph cables snapped in multiple places. More than 40 villages in Newfoundland were damaged, and the area also suffered the loss of livestock, fishing gear, ships, and 280,000 pounds of salt cod, according to historical reports. Property losses were estimated at more than $20 million in 2004 dollars.

While underwater earthquakes can cause local tsunamis, enormous geological events elsewhere in the world may also send huge waves our way, much as this week's earthquake sent devastating waves 3,000 miles away. One London researcher contends that an unstable chunk of La Palma, a volcanically active island in the Canary Islands, could cause a catastrophic wall of water to hit the US East Coast if it falls into the sea.

''I'd worry a lot more about hurricanes [in New England] than tsunamis," said John Goff, a senior research scientist at the University of Texas.

mmd
12-29-2004, 08:54 PM
The 1929 Tsunami in the Burin Peninsula, Newfoundland (http://www.lostatsea.ca/tidal.htm)

Towing a house back from the sea on November 18th, 1929.
http://www.durham.net/~kburt/TidalWaveDisaster.jpg

brian.cunningham
12-29-2004, 11:19 PM
Yes it can, and has, happen to us.