While concern over the possibility of a major earthquake the Bay Area is warranted, an expert from the United States Geological Survey said locals need not fret much about the prospect of a tsunami hitting Mountain View.
"I wouldn't want your readers to lose a lot of sleep over that," said Tom Brocher, director of the earthquake science center for the USGS. "The seismic hazards are what they need to worry about, rather than the tsunami."
Brocher, who is based in Menlo Park said that the narrow opening of the bay, along with its shallow depth, means that it would be highly unlikely for tsunami waters to do much damage to inland areas in the Bay Area, even in cities like Mountain View, which abut the bay.
Coastal cities are the most at risk from a tsunami, Brocher said. He also said that the Bay Area faults, such as the Hayward and San Andreas, aren't likely to cause a tsunami.
"In this part of California, the tsunami risk is mainly related to distant earthquakes," he said.
Faults in the Bay Area are mostly "slip strike" faults, Brocher said -- meaning that they grind on each other when they move parallel to one another.
Large tsunamis are created by "subduction zone" faults, he said, areas where one tectonic plate is being forced under another. When faults like this experience a major shift the earth can suddenly drop or rise rapidly. If that happens with an underwater fault, that water will be shoved with great force and may result in a tsunami.
To illustrate his point, Brocher said that the massive 1906 earthquake, that razed most of San Francisco, only generated a swell of about 4 inches.
However, he said, just because Mountain View residents shouldn't "lose sleep" over the prospect of a tsunami, doesn't mean that they need not worry about the damage caused by a strong temblor.
There are many faults running through the Bay Area, he said. "We're so close that the shaking is going to be very strong."
It is important for families, as well as individuals, to have a plan in case of a major natural disaster, according to Jaime Garrett, public information officer for the Mountain View Fire Department. There are several places locals can go to help devise such a plan, including online and by calling the fire department at 903-6365.
There is also AlertSCC.com, where residents can sign up for automated alerts on their land lines, cell phones and e-mail accounts. The Mountain View Fire Department also has Facebook and Twitter accounts, where emergency information would be posted.
In the event of an emergency, information would also be available on local radio and television -- 87.9 FM, KFFH and channel 15 KMVP respectively.