NOAA 2006-007
Contact: Marcie Katcher
NOAA News Releases 2006
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Norfolk, today, became the first major East Coast city with a well designed tsunami emergency response plan to alert residents and visitors of tsunami threats, and evacuate areas if necessary. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency responsible for tsunami and all severe weather warnings, officially recognized the City of Norfolk as the latest of 26 TsunamiReady communities along U.S. coasts. Norfolk was also recognized as StormReady, becoming one of nearly 1,000 communities across the country with a proactive approach to warning and educating the public about tornadoes, flooding and other severe weather.

“City officials and emergency managers have worked hard to establish a 24-hour system to receive NOAA warnings and inform Norfolk residents about what actions to take if a tsunami or severe weather is headed their way. I’m particularly proud to honor the City of Norfolk as the first major East Coast city to become TsunamiReady,” said Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA has expanded its tsunami detection and warning capability since the Indian Ocean tsunami, and community preparedness programs like TsunamiReady are key components of this effort. Ultimately it is the public’s ability to react to such warnings that completes the chain in an effective tsunami warning process. TsunamiReady helps accomplish this." Lautenbacher noted that Indian Harbour Beach, a small community of 9,000 in Central Florida, was the first community on the East Coast to attain TsunamiReady status. Harbour Beach attained the designation July 7, 2005.

Lautenbacher was joined by numerous federal, state and local dignitaries at the recognition ceremony held at Nauticus, the National Maritime Center today. "The City of Norfolk is honored that NOAA's National Weather Service has recognized our community as the first major East Coast city to achieve TsunamiReady/Storm Ready recognition,'' said Mayor Paul Fraim. "I'm confident that our citizens deeply appreciate NOAA's commitment to saving lives through planning, education and awareness."

“Coastal communities like Norfolk contain 53 percent of the nation’s population. Protecting our growing population along the coastline from the ravages of natural disasters is a major concern in Virginia. Hurricane Isabel in 2003 was the costliest disaster ever in Virginia, with more than $1billion in damages. All coastal communities in the United States are at some risk for a tsunami. We are honored that the City of Norfolk is leading the way in preparedness with the designation of being both TsunamiReady and StormReady,” said Congressman Robert. C. Scott.

“In our view, the City of Norfolk has made tremendous progress on educating its citizens about all natural disasters, from hurricanes to tornadoes and winter storms, to east coast tsunamis. This program will enable the city to apply for additional reductions in the premiums paid into the National Flood Insurance Program which could result in an additional savings of over $100,000 for the city and local taxpayers,” added Ron Keys, director of emergency preparedness for the City of Norfolk.

The event featured the first public display of the Indian Ocean tsunami, plus a hypothetical Atlantic coast tsunami simulation based on an earthquake originating from the Puerto Rico Trench, presented on NOAA’s Science on a Sphere exhibit at Nauticus. This dramatic simulation provides viewers with a contextual and experiential understanding of the dangers of tsunamis and the need for preparedness.

“The Indian Ocean tsunami and Atlantic coast simulations will be part of the permanent exhibit at Science-on-A-Sphere and will be open to the public after our winter renovation. A new NOAA tsunami kiosk will be added in the future. This new tsunami section will provide the public and worldwide visitors a dramatic and experiential understanding of the dangers of tsunamis and the need for preparedness,” said Richard Conti, director of The National Maritime Center, Nauticus.

Norfolk also became the fifth Hampton Roads community to earn the StormReady designation. TsunamiReady is an outgrowth of the StormReady program created by NOAA’s National Weather Service in 1999 to encourage communities to take a proactive approach to improving local hazardous weather operations and public awareness. The voluntary program provides communities with clear-cut advice through a partnership between local National Weather Service offices and state and local emergency managers.

To be recognized as TsunamiReady/StormReady, a community must:

  • Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center;
  • Have multiple ways to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public;
  • Create a system that monitors weather conditions locally;
  • Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars;
  • Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.

“The mission of the National Weather Service is to protect lives and livelihoods from hazardous weather and other natural and man-made dangers. StormReady and TsunamiReady help us create better prepared communities throughout the country,” said Bill Sammler, warning coordination meteorologist of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Wakefield, Va., which serves the Hampton Roads area. “Through StormReady and TsunamiReady, the City of Norfolk will be better prepared to help protect the lives and property of its citizens and visitors during severe weather events, as well as for the rare, but potentially devastating tsunami.”

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

Editors Note: An image of the StormReady/TsunamiReady signs and more program information is available at

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