How do you prepare for THIS?



You wanna know what scares the holy living bejeezus out of me? Tsunamis. I live about 25 miles inland from the Southern Maine coast, and it’s relatively flat land, with little terrain until you get immediately west of me. Worse yet, I work about a mile from the coast of the Atlantic ocean. If there’s a bigass tsunami headed my way M-F, chances are I won’t know much about it until I’m swimming. There’s just something about a wall of water travelling over 200mph carrying cars, houses, people, animals, trees, and other assorted yet brutal debris with it that just gets my pucker factor going. If you’re caught outdoors or in a car or really, even in a house in the path of a good ‘un, there’s really not much you can do except hope you can reach your ass and kiss it goodbye. No amount of prepping can prepare you for that, no amount of ammo and freeze-fried food in a bunker is gonna help you.


I know it’s old news, but I just came across some security camera footage from the 2011 Japanese 9.0 earthquake that caused a massive tsunami. You should definitely watch it here. According to the Wikipedia article on the earthquake and tsunami, the earthquake was the most powerful ever to hit Japan, and the fifth most powerful in recorded history. It moved the entire Japanese island of Honshu EIGHT FEET east (geocachers must have been PISSED), caused 15,884 deaths, 6,148 injured, and 2,633 people missing, along with hundreds of thousands thousands of buildings collapsed or destroyed. These were caused by the tsunami, a massive wave that reached  133 feet tall (!) and traveled many miles inland. 4.4 MILLION people were without power and 1.5 MILLION without water. (ironic, no?) There were an estimated 25 million TONS of debris in Japanese coastal towns, and they are STILL cleaning it up. Nuclear reactors were shut down, after radiation leakage. Fires were rampant.


If that’s not enough to give you the willies, check out these before and after photos of select areas in Japan; they are zoomable satellite images.  You can see flooded streets, demolished houses, billions of dollars of destruction. And you know what? If you live on a coastal area, it could happen where you are, too.





So what can you do to prepare for this kind of natural disaster? Like I said, not much you can do…maybe put some water wings in your BOB and a canoe on the roof? In all seriousness, keep prepping as you normally would…except maybe keep some extra preps  and important documents in watertight containers, locked in sturdy areas of your house (in a steel cabinet bolted to the concrete floor and wall of your cellar facing the coast seems like it would survive reasonably well), or possibly burying supplies would help you out hugely in this scenario, especially if you buried it deep enough to combat the natural erosion caused by millions of tons of water at high velocity.

Another option is to know your closest high ground, and keep supplies stowed away there. a couple hundred feet of elevation would do wonders for your survival chances…especially if you had water, shelter, and food stores (maybe even a firearm to fend off looters and a snorkel and goggles…seriously) to take care of you and your family for a few days. The ability to dry clothing and keep warm, even in summer months, would be tantamount, and the landscape will undoubtedly be turned into a patchwork of wrecked, soaked soil and bogged out swamps. Keep in mind that others and probably wildlife will be looking for dry high ground as well, so keep your eyes peeled for people to help and/or keep away.


Be ready to rebuild or relocate. It would be complete pandemonium, I imagine. I’m sure there would be relatively quick-responding emergency agencies, but they can’t help everyone at once. Long lines at relief centers. Squabbles turning into brawls over supplies, people wandering about, desperate, forlorn. Mothers looking for children. Children looking for parents. Everyone on the verge of panic. Doesn’t sound like fun to me at all.


Has anyone else out there thought about this specific horror of nature? What have you done to prepare for the worst nature has to offer?


Stay safe out there…and go stock up on kayaks!



28 comments… add one
  • Ray March 28, 2014, 10:21 am

    You Don’t , Sad fact is that many, MANY situations are not survivable without HUGE amounts of blind luck–even then you lose EVERYTHING. Much like everyone within 50 kilometers of Fukushima lost everything to fallout from the meltdowns.(even the ones untouched by the wave) A lot of the time “prepping”, is like a little kids teddy bear–It cannot do anything at all to help you, it just makes you feel safe and gives you something to cling to when the terror outside is overwhelming. All “prepping” is ; is positive fear response, but you cannot “prep” for everything, and some things will kill you no matter what you do. It’s all just a matter of blind luck—and death ALLWAYS wins. —Now don’t you feel better?

  • Pineslayer March 28, 2014, 11:14 am

    Keep up on news and know where the high ground is. Even a hill that is 50-100′ above sea level will offer sanctuary. Luck favors the prepared mind.

  • Cory March 28, 2014, 11:29 am

    There is another option. And you mentioned it, but seem unwilling to consider it other than an afterthought. Relocate. If this were bothering me as much as it seems to be bothering you I would be sitting the Mrs. down for a heart to heart talk.

  • Road Warrior March 28, 2014, 12:00 pm

    House is on the market. ;)

    • Cory March 28, 2014, 1:14 pm

      Didn’t mean to sound cold. In a similar situation myself. Found out the hard way that we are only 8 miles from a nuclear reactor by the way the crow flies. We also are looking.

  • smokechecktim March 28, 2014, 12:51 pm

    The story from japan that just floored me was the commuter train with several hundred passengers that just disappeared and was never found. The only thing that could help is situational awareness. If near the coast for work or play be aware of high ground and likely routes to quickly leave. In SOCAL they actually have placed highway signs ID’ing tsunami evacuation routes.

    • SEBAGO DAD March 29, 2014, 12:34 pm

      “In SOCAL they actually have placed highway signs ID’ing tsunami evacuation routes.”

      Tim, I think that I’d find my own route out… If a T-wave alert suddenly sounded that road would look like the highway in the opening credits of “The Walking Dead”!

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. March 28, 2014, 2:00 pm

    I’m about 60 miles from the Texas Gulf coast, elevation approximately 60 feet above sea level. I have read that the effort to cross that much land takes up vast amounts of energy, but I also know with all of that flat land, draining back to the sea would take a very very long time.

    If you live or work along the coastline and a big wave came in similar to Japan, a lot of luck would be needed. Scary indeed.

  • irishdutchuncle March 28, 2014, 2:33 pm

    … and swim fins.
    (where did I put my swim fins?)

    • irishdutchuncle March 28, 2014, 3:38 pm

      a life jacket and a sport helmet for each kid (plus one for each adult) is more practical than “water wings”. you should have these if you are getting the kayaks. an Atlantic coast Tsunami is possible, and potentially worse, but not nearly as likely as in the Pacific. hurricane storm surge is much more likely: it’s a tsunami in slow motion. I’m looking for a “retirement” property somewhere west of the AT, but that is mostly because it is less expensive, not because of tsunami.

  • JAS March 28, 2014, 3:40 pm

    The sad fact is, you can’t prepare for this in any other way than moving. We live in central Florida and there is always a real possibility of a tsunami from an earth quake on the mid Atlantic ridge or the Caribbean plate. They have tsunami warning buoys, but there is not much chance of getting out of the way. Our solution was to make sure when we bought that we would be about as high up as we can get. When we where looking at houses, I always checked the topo map to see what the elevation of the house was as well as the surrounding land. We wound up buying on a hill 125 feet above sea level, with nothing higher than us in the area. This would not solve the problem of a super tsunami, but I don’t believe most would reach that high. The rest of our preps are based on hurricanes, tornados and long term power outages.

  • Steve suffering in NJ March 28, 2014, 7:14 pm

    There’s no way to prepare for that. Only option is get the F outta there.

    I live high in the mountains. Yes there are mountains in NJ.
    If if floods here nothing short of Nohas Ark is going to be of any use. We get low land flooding due to all the steep mountains in this area. My son was born right in the middle or hurricane Irene. Atta boy!
    Had my truck fueled up, chain saw w sharp blades spare plug and lots of ropes and chains.

    It helps to know where the water runs in your area. Small streams that pass obscurely under roadways become washed out roads very quickly.

    Don’t be one of those people stuck in the water with there vehicle either. Know the wading depth of your vehicle. Some manufactures publish this info ex Land Rover. Most do not. Pop your hood and make note of where the fresh air comes into the air box (place the airfilter is kept) that’s MAX depth folks. Once water enters there the motor sucks it in and hydro locks. (Motors most liku junk).

    Keep in mind many “sports cars” keep the air intake close to the road to avoid high under hood temperatures. Cooler air more power. You might be suprised to see just how low the fresh air pick up is.

    Not to mention everything has a breather transfer boxes, transmissions, differentials. The breathers will let water into these units as well.

    Saw quite a few cars dead in the water (literarily) because someone didn’t know the wading depth during hurricane Sandy.

  • Chuck Findlay March 28, 2014, 8:37 pm

    I agree you try to live in a place that is historically safe, look at past history of extreme events and weather and try to live in a place with little chance of bad events.

    But you can’t plan for every event, so if a tsunami is coming you run fast.

  • Chuck Findlay March 28, 2014, 8:56 pm

    In the picture above, somehow I don’t see the guy with the Water Wings on doing to well when a tsunami hits…

  • ORRN on LI March 28, 2014, 9:29 pm

    I live on a huge sand bar connected to NY by bridges and tunnels. I can’t see my husband and I walking away from 2 full time jobs to avoid a tsunami scenario. I can only pray that if something as cataclysmic as that came our way, it would take us all fast and together. Here on the island there is no where to run, that’s why my plan is to always bug in. (For those disasters other than the wall of water) I have had 2 dreams in my life that were so life like about tsunamis I was shaken up for days. Guess I won’t be getting much sleep tonight……….

  • Jarhead Survivor March 29, 2014, 7:02 am

    Where I work I can look out the window and see the ocean. At lunch time I sometimes wander down to the waters edge and eat my lunch. I’ve close to the ocean for most of my life and don’t see that changing any time soon. Could it happen here in Maine? Sure it could, but so could a wild fire, asteroid, or any number of man made or natural disasters. I’m as ready as I can be, but don’t waste a lot of time fretting about it.

    Having said that I remember watching the disaster unfold and thinking, “Holy cow! That could happen here someday!” So I added water wings to my preps just like that guy in the picture.

    (Just kidding.)

  • kevin March 29, 2014, 10:51 am

    the one that scares the pee outa me is whats called a MEGA TSUNAMI in the carany island there is a volcano that SOMETIME in the future which is the sucky part is gonna drop a MAJOR chunk of land into the ocean the crappy part is NOBODY knows when this will happen but when it does it will WIPE THE EAST COAST CLEAN up to 20 to 30 miles inland FLORDIA the WHOLE STATE WILL BE WASHED OVER ALL the major citys on east coast will be washed away THAT THE ONE THAT SCARES THE SHIT OIUTA ME

  • SEBAGO DAD March 29, 2014, 1:06 pm

    Here in Sebago I’m only about 15.5 miles from the ocean, but 358′ ASL. I can be at almost 1,000′ in the matter of a hour.

    Also, Maine’s Casco Bay is a relatively shallow body of water and the continental slope is nearly 200 miles offshore with George’s Bank and the Scotia Shelf acting as barriers. This topography would greatly influence the magnitude of any such event.

    Comparatively, the coastal regions adjacent to Fukajima are open to the Japanese Trench and 75 miles off shore the water is 5,000 feet deep.

    Hope this makes you feel a little better! :)

    To me, I am more worried about the aftermath effects of the coastal infrastructure destruction. For this, my humble preps will be most helpful.

  • Scorch March 29, 2014, 9:40 pm

    Has our all knowing government emergency management people (or anyone else for that matter) published any documentation about how far inland a tsunami would reach? Every thing I have found for my area (Florida) ranges from a few hundred feet to the entire state. Any one have any idea?

    • JAS March 30, 2014, 2:41 pm

      The problem with Florida (I live here) is that you will not go anywhere. The roads will become gridlocked in a matter of minutes. If you look at the evacuation routes along the coast, they all focus on going inland on just a few highways. Where ever you are when a tsunami starts, is where you will stay. When we started looking to buy, we made a conscious decision to be at least 100 ft above sea level and well away from the water. We bought in almost the dead center of the state at 125 ft above sea level and plan to ride out what ever comes our way. My feeling is if there is a major tsunami, it will flood most all of the low lying areas of Florida. Get a Topo map and study the area around your location and you will either feel pretty good or be scared shitless, depending on where you live.

      • j.r. guerra in s. tx. March 31, 2014, 8:32 am

        It also pays to check out where your low lying areas are in conjunction to the road elevations where you live. Some years back, many people were stranded on their land for WEEKS because of hurricane Dolly dumping quite a bit of rain down and the roads were flooded for a very long time. Knowing where these areas are beforehand will save you time in case you have to evacuate.

  • Michael March 29, 2014, 11:01 pm

    Washington State has tsunami evacuation routes mapped, buoys off the coast that measure ocean swell height, and pretty good disaster response teams. This is the sort of thing you need .gov for.

    On the personal side, know your evac routes, keep your cars gas tank full, and supplies in the trunk, just like you do for all the reasons we prep.

    • Ray March 30, 2014, 7:06 am

      Guys WATCH the Fukushima footage . Fukushima got 90 SECONDS warning and most of the dead were killed in the first 11 MINITS. Every coastal warning / evacuation / disaster system ON EARTH is modeled on the one used in Japan. YOU CANNOT outrun a tsunami. YOU CANNOT outrun a mudslide. YOU CANNOT outrun a tornado or a pyroclastic cloud. ALL of them move over the ground at speeds far greater than any car (150-600MPH) If you live in a place where something like this CAN happen; sooner or later IT WILL , and the only thing you can do to “prep” , is NOT BE THERE when it dose. Government is completely useless in a disaster and of little use in the aftermath. It takes the weeks if not months for it to “respond” and even then it often dose more harm than good. I have seen all of the last three tornado “super outbreaks” in Ky.(F-3 F-4 F-5) up close and in person, and I can vouch for the fact that survival has nothing at all to do with “prepping”. You have no control over your “survival” in any slightest way. Whether you live or die is blind luck.

  • Roseman March 30, 2014, 7:04 am

    We are close to 40 miles from the shore at 1000 ft elevation. It’s a safe distance IMHO. Sold the house on Cape Cod. I was never comfortable there being so close to the ocean. Our children are still mad at me about selling ‘their’ vacation home.

  • DaveP March 31, 2014, 12:21 am

    For all you coastal types one thing to consider is that the energy of the tsunami manifests itself once it hits the shallow waters – depending on the topography of the water you live near one of the safest places you could be is *on the water*.

    Now, if you live at the end of a long, shallow bay you’re screwed, but if you live on the ocean you could go a few hundred yards out and be a lot safer than stuck on a highway a half mile in.

    One of the many reasons that I live in the crown jewel of the Appalachians, 1300 feet above sea level :)

  • Jason April 1, 2014, 1:57 pm

    Always the ‘what ifs’ that seem to be exacerbated by Hollywood or massively sensationalized my the media.

    Did you know that during the Fukushima melt down people in the western half of the US panicked & bought up every bit of potassium iodide available on the market? Yes, it was panic buying when there was a near zero possibility of fallout extending anywhere close to the Hawaiian Islands, let alone thousands of miles east to the US. It is the China Syndrome – complete with Michael Douglas, Jack Lemmon & Jane Fonda that twisted our minds.

    If you look historically at the area in which you live, you will probably find that a tsunami has never, ever occurred. I have lived within 5 miles of the Pacific coast my entire life & do not intend to move because of the extremely remote possibility of a tidal wave, that to me is just plain paranoia & someone’s mind running amuck.

    You have a much, much higher probability of being killed in an auto accident yet, you don’t think twice about driving.

    Your best prep is air bags, seat belts & defensive driving – leave the water wings at Walmart.

  • chilichef April 2, 2014, 9:27 am

    Ok, a couple of points.
    First, I actually am an oceanographer by training; got the degree on the wall. Never practiced as such but even so. So, while I won’t say I’m an expert I do know a goodly amount about them.
    Second; Some areas have history of Tsunami’s; some don’t; much of our pacific coastline has history of Tsunamis’; our east coast, not so much. If you are on the east coast, not including certain islands such as Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, you are generally pretty safe; which is not to say ‘it couldn’t happen’; theoretically an asteroid or meteor or such could hit the Atlantic ocean and really make waves, but there’s not a thing you can do about that; and the Canary Island fault noted by some might, emphasis on might, lead to Tsunami, though I’ve seen conflicting calculations on that.
    Third, as others have noted, it really depends on your geography; not just how far above sea level you are and how far from the shore, but also underwater topography; a relatively long, shallow continental shelf is going to ‘break’ a megatsunami much earlier than a short continental shelf. In the case of Florida, there is a very long, very shallow continental shelf off of, say, Daytona; OTOH, there is almost NO continental shelf off of Palm Beach. A really “big” tsunami is likely to start breaking miles offshore from Daytona; it’s likely to break almost on the beach in Palm Beach.
    And the last thing is, scale. Even the Fukushima Tsunami was 7 meters high, maybe 24 feet. While a 24 foot wave is big, if you’re a mile inland it simply is not going to carry that far. Particularly if you have any elevation to speak of. There’s lots of stuff on the internet saying tsunami’s can extend 1o miles inland and stuff, but at least NOAA and other sources I trust say more like 1000 feet or maybe a bit more. But it’s not going to extend miles in.
    Point is, honest to god, if you’re on the east coast I simply wouldn’t worry about it; it’s extremely unlikely, there’s not a history of these things and unless you are right on the beach odds are you’ll be fine. If you’re on West coast, it’s a worry; but even there, unless you’re right on the beach or in some sort of cone shaped inlet or such, you’re probably better off worrying about an earthquake.

  • Don April 2, 2014, 12:15 pm

    this is the NOAA Tsunami site. I haven’t gone very deep into it, but I know that with other weather related events you can get real time warnings on your cell phone. That might be an option, especially if you are at work with no access to TV or radio warnings.


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