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Northwest Vancouver Island Tsunami Risk Project

Why is it important  |  Why Tsunami   |  Upcoming Events
Community Tsunami Survey Feedback  | NWVI Overland Inundation Maps & Tsunami Resources

The SRD in partnership with the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k:tles7et’h’ First Nations and Nuchatlaht First Nation have funded the high-resolution tsunami modelling for the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. This is a collaborative endeavor with five First Nations, four municipalities, two Regional Districts and several private and provincial stakeholders.

The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) and project partners are undertaking a Tsunami Flood Risk Assessment with assistance from Northwest Hydraulic Consultants (NHC) and Ocean Networks Canada (ONC). The goal of this project is to better understand tsunami risks on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island through tsunami models and the completion of a risk assessment with the integration of community experience and Indigenous knowledge.

The study area expands south from Yuquot to Cape Scott to the north, and includes the communities of Gold River, Tahsis, Zeballos, and Port Alice, as well as several Indigenous communities including the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k:tles7et’h’, Nuchatlaht, Ehattesaht, Mowachaht / Muchalaht, and Quatsino First Nations (Figure 1). In addition to these locations, the study area covers the many historic community locations, sacred sites, fishing and hunting areas, shellfish harvesting sites and old village sites.

Figure 1 – Tsunami Risk Project Study Area and Communities

Why is it Important?

  • Through sharing of experiences and knowledge we hope to help reduce tsunami risk in communities
  • Have a better understanding of what communities need for evacuation if necessary
  • Help to build community response and resiliency in extreme situations
  • Help the community understand where they can access emergency programs

Why Tsunami? Introduction to Vancouver Island Tsunami Hazard

Northwest Vancouver Island is characterized by natural beauty and rich history. With the Pacific Ocean to the west, this region is exposed to tsunami hazard from local sources, such as the Cascadia Subduction Zone, and distant sources, such as the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Other distant sources around the Pacific Ocean Ring of Fire could also affect Northwest Vancouver Island (Figure 2).

Even when communities are far from a tsunami source there can be impacts. Recent earthquakes that generated tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia have demonstrated this.

Figure 2 – Pacific Ocean Ring of Fire. Illustration adapted from Atwater et al. (2005)Subduction zones are areas where tectonic plates meet, with one plate subducting (Figure 3). This process can build up enormous amounts of stress between the plates over time. When an earthquake occurs, this stress is released, causing the seafloor to lift and displacing the water above – this is how 90% of global tsunamis are generated.

Geological studies, historical records from Japan, and oral history from Indigenous communities along the west coast of North America show that the last large local tsunami was generated by a strong Cascadia earthquake which occurred on January 26th, 1700.

Scientific study of tsunamis on the west coast of Vancouver Island began in earnest in the 1980s, however, the history of tsunamis and the impacts of tsunamis is much longer. This is represented in several ways including the Nuu-chah-nulth story of mountain dwarves and the foot in drum legend (Figure 4). Along with other references, these accounts highlight the knowledge and teachings that exist with regards to earthquake and tsunamis on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Figure 3 – Vertical Slice Through a Subduction Zone. Illustration adapted from U.S. Geological Survey (2005)

Figure 4 – Illustration by Nuu-chah-nulth artist Tim Paul of the earthquake foot in drum legend


Upcoming Events

The SRD invites the public to virtual meetings about Northwest Vancouver Island Tsunami Risk Assessments.   Each session will include a 30-minute-long presentation followed by 30 minutes for questions and answers. No preregistration is required.

  • Phase 1 Wrap Up Session – What we have learned
    Tuesday April 26th from 7 – 8 pm

    • An overview of what we learned about the tsunami risks on the communities of Ehatis, Esperanza, Oclucje, Kyuquot, Tahsis, and Zeballos during Phase 1 through tsunami inundation maps, amplitude maps and current velocity maps.
    • Online via Zoom link –
    • Telephone 778-907-2071 / Meeting ID: 894 5587 5575
  • Phase 2 Kickoff Session – Where are we going
    Wednesday April 27th from 7 – 8 pm

    • An overview of the additional work that will be completed in Phase 2, focused on the communities of Gold River, Holberg, Port Alice, Quatsino, and Winter Harbour.
    • Online via Zoom link –
    • Telephone 778-907-2071 / Meeting ID: 884 7329 0914
  • Phase 2 of this project will commence in Spring of 2022 under funding provided by a private donor and will include:
    • Conducting high resolution hazard modelling and mapping for the Mt. Waddington Regional District and Gold River coastal areas, including an assessment of the associated risks
    • The design, purchase and installation of outdoor tsunami inundation map signs to educate the public about tsunami risk in their area
    • Production of a short film sharing the indigenous story of the 1700 Cascadia tsunami event and first hand experiences of the 1964 Alaska tsunami, as well as general presentation of the project
    • Developing awareness through the delivery of a “Waves of Knowledge” earthquake and tsunami science education module for K-12 students in the communities within the study area
    • Development of an interactive, internet-based ‘Story Map’ to interact with the tsunami hazard data

These virtual public meetings will not be recorded. For more information and to view all resources, videos and tsunami maps that were developed in Phase 1 of the Northwest Vancouver Island Tsunami Risk Assessments, please visit

For More Info

Please contact, Shaun Koopman
SRD Protective Services Coordinator  |  250-830-6702