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Photo via TCF Architecture/Ocosta Elementary School and tsunami shelter
Photo via TCF Architecture/Ocosta Elementary School and tsunami shelter

Last month, the New Yorker published an insanely fascinating and terrifying piece about the impending earthquake that will hit the entire Pacific Northwest region.

It turns out that Westport, Wash., might just be the best prepared area for that natural disaster. According to this article in Hakai Magazine, the town has the “first publicly funded tsunami shelter in the United States.”

As Hakai reports, Westport is surrounded by water and one of the most endangered zones when that Cascadia fault goes, giving residents about “20 minutes” before water starts engulfing the city. The shelter will have “enough room to give a square meter of space each to 1,000 people—about half of Westport’s population.”

The project, started last November, is possible thanks to research from the 2011 earthquake in Japan. Washington State Department of Natural Resources geologists and others began researching whether they could build a shelter that could withstand an earthquake and tsunami here in the Pacific Northwest.

The Westport tsunami shelter, which will cost about $13 million when completed, is being built into the town’s Ocosta Elementary School, where “a new school gym is being built on a hill that’s nearly nine meters above sea level, making its roof, at nearly 17 meters [just over 55 feet] elevation, one of the tallest buildings in town,” states Hakai.

Of course, other popular coastal areas have yet to build shelters. Hakai reports that despite five years of trying to secure funding, Cannon Beach, Ore., has yet to approve a proposal. The Cannon Beach shelter is trickier and more expensive, as it would require new roads to be built and remains “years off.”

The Westport shelter should be complete by next year. Read more details about the build at Tacoma-based TCF Architecture’s site here.

King 5 did a report on the Westport shelter last December, which you can watch below:

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