Over one thousand years ago, a tsunami devastated the area where Seattle exists today?according to computer modeling?and researchers think it could happen again. About 900 AD, a powerful earthquake hit Seattle’s Puget Sound. The quake, located on the still-active Seattle fault, would have sent a giant tsunami throughout the sound.

The tsunami reached heights of 9 to 23 feet and traveled 18-28 miles per hour, and swept almost 100 feet into shore in some places. A wave that size can lift cars off the ground. Add those problems to gas lines severed after a quake, “and you’ve got the makings of a disaster,” says tsunami researcher Emile Okal.

Excavations at West Point revealed a Native American fire pit buried underneath sand that was swept onshore by the wave. “Many people were probably living by the water’s edge,” says researcher Harold Mofjeld. According to the computer model, the wave took only three minutes to get from the middle of the Sound to West Point. Mofjeld thinks “It happened so fast” there was no chance to escape.

Scientists monitoring the Seattle fault think a similar tsunami could hit Puget Sound again, although it’s impossible to predict when. Today over 3 million people live and work in the area. Damage would be “substantial,” says Mofjeld, especially because the wave would arrive minutes after devastation from a powerful earthquake.

Since Seattle is a fairly young city, most of its newer buildings are designed to withstand earthquakes. Small tsunamis are common in the area. Signposts advise residents on exposed shores to head for high ground as quickly as possible following an earthquake. Geologist Brian Atwater says, “The earthquake serves as Seattle’s tsunami warning.”

The ancient Mayans took their warnings from the sky and were so good at it that we?ve based part of our modern calendar on theirs. Learn their secrets from ?Galactic Alignment? by John Major Jenkins and find out why Jose Arguilles thinks we should be living by their calendar today from ?Time & Technosphere,? click here.

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