Living in on the mid Atlantic coast, there are a lot of extreme weather events that you need to keep your eyes open for. Tornados that rip through towns, hurricanes like the one that flattened New Orleans, ice storms and severe lightning. Tsunamis, however, are a highly unusual occurrence in this part of the world. It's not impossible that you might have to face one though, so we've compiled this article on tsunami facts to help you be prepared for anything.

Tsunami is a Japanese word which translates loosely into "harbor wave." It describes the humongous series of water waves that periodically plague coastlines and send people fleeing from their homes or vacation rentals into the hills. Tsunamis are commonly known as tidal waves in English speaking areas, but since Japan is the area most often affected by the phenomenon (there are over 190 recorded events), the Japanese name has been taking over in the common parlance.

Tsunamis were once thought to be freak accidents, but today we know that they are actually caused by underwater disturbances such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and explosions, that set the water to vibrating in a way that greatly amplifies the height of the natural wave forms to the point where they are capable of sweeping far enough onshore to wash away houses miles inland. Tsunamis should not be confused with storm surges, which are extra high tides generated by tropical storms, though some of the effects are the same.

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Tsunamis are only dangerous to people and boats near the shore. Vessels that are out in the open ocean will ride the tsunami easily as it appears as nothing more than a slight hump of passing water moving at the speed of a jet. Is it only once the wave nears shore that the shallow bottom causes the water to build up, sweeping over any individuals who are foolhardy enough to stand around and watch it. It doesn't crest and crash, like a surfing wave, but pushes relentlessly inland like a monster tide.

Tsunamis are not common on the Atlantic coast, so your St. John NB home is unlikely to be affected. It is the Pacific, which is crisscrossed by active fault lines, that poses the most danger. Cities on these coasts often have early warning systems, so keep your ears open and your eyes peeled for warning signs and signs marking evacuation routes. If you hear a warning or if the water suddenly begins to suck away from the shore, flee inland for the highest ground you can find. Alternate warning signs include a surprisingly high, frothy tide, a roaring sound, and animals behaving strangely.

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