Coastal school district could take big step toward tsunami safety

OCEAN SHORES, Wash. — Voters on the Washington coast are deciding whether to build tsunami safety zones at two schools and move a third school to higher ground.

The North Beach School District wants to create refuge areas at two schools in Ocean Shores, and build a new elementary school on higher ground to replace the school in Pacific Beach.

The $110 million bond measure is on Tuesday’s ballot.

“It would allow us, with a single flip of a switch, to go from one of the least safe tsunami-ready districts in the State of Washington to maybe the safest in the United States,” said superintendent Andy Kelly.

The first elevated tsunami evacuation area in the state is in Westport, and a new tower is now being built in Tokeland.

Last year, a state report found Grays Harbor County needs 30-42 evacuation structures, Clallam County needs one to three, and Pacific County needs between 25 and 40.

“It’s based on the number of folks who are living, working and staying in hotels in that particular area,” said Maximilian Dixon of Washington’s Emergency Management Division.

State legislators are now working to set aside about a hundred million dollars to fix schools that are at highest risk from an earthquake or tsunami.

The bill passed a Senate committee unanimously.

“This is an example of Republicans and Democrats working well together. We all recognize this is a hazard for the entire state,” said Sen. David Frockt, (D-Seattle).

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