Washington tribe builds tsunami evacuation tower in Tokeland

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Washington State has the second highest seismic risk in America due to its location and could see dangerous earthquakes or tsunami waves up to 42 feet high.

But the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe has created the first vertical escape tower in the United States, providing a potential escape route in the event of a deadly tsunami.

Topelake Tsunami Vertical Escape Tower
The Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe has created the first vertical tsunami evacuation tower in the United States, located in Topelake, WA. Washington military department

The tower can hold over 400 people and is 50 feet high and 40 feet wide. The structure has two decks, one at 40 feet and the taller at 50 feet high, according to the Washington Military Department.

But those in Tokeland should hike about 30 to 45 minutes to reach higher ground, though waves are likely to hit within 20 minutes according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

Because they wouldn’t have enough time to reach a safe height before a tsunami hit, the tribe decided to build the tower and ensure their safety.

The tribe built the tower near the middle of Tokeland, which allows everyone in the community to be able to walk to the tower in 15-20 minutes.

Tsunami vertical evacuation tower
The Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe has created the first vertical tsunami evacuation tower in the United States, located in Topelake, WA.

The tribe also designed the tower in such a way that it could withstand tsunami waves as well as earthquakes.

More tsunami towers are expected to be built along the Washington coast, officials say. Rovert Ezelle, director of Washington’s emergency management division, said he would look to the tribe for guidance on future projects.

Alyse Messmer-Smith is a duty reporter at the Bellingham Herald. If you enjoy stories like this, consider supporting our work by subscribing to our journal.


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