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Boston and Beyond

June 26, 2013

Tsunami may have hit East Coast earlier this month

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A storm that blew through earlier this month might have triggered a rare phenomenon for the East Coast: a tsunami.

Tsunami-like conditions were observed June 13 at more than 30 tide gauges along the East Coast, Bermuda and Puerto Rico, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The highest peak amplitude was recorded in Newport, R.I, where it reached just under a foot above sea level. Gauges in Kiptopeke, Va., and Atlantic City, N.J., recorded similar peaks, according to NOAA.

“From North Carolina up through Massachusetts, we can find that signal, even though it’s very small, which tells us there was something going on,” Mike Angove, head of NOAA’s tsunami program, said yesterday. “We’re trying to piece this back together.”

A strong storm moved through the region and offshore that day, and scientists were trying to determine if it played a role.

Angove stopped short of saying it was a tsunami, but acknowledged it had specific characteristics of one. NOAA’s West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center posted a statement calling it a tsunami.

He said researchers are looking for a cause. One possibility is a rare meteotsunami, which is a tsunami caused by weather. Or it could have been caused by a landslide off the continental shelf, which is less rare but still uncommon, he said.

Angove hopes to send a boat with sonar out to the shelf to look for a landslide and help determine what happened.

“If we can’t do that, it’s going to be tough to put this egg back together,” he said.

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