Redmond at forefront of tsunami-detection tech

Redmond at forefront of tsunami-detection tech
REDMOND, Wash. -- After Saturday morning's quake in Chile hit, tsunami alerts went out across the Pacific Ocean.

And it was a detection device developed in Redmond helped warn the world about the height of waves rippling through the ocean waters.

"You'll see the tsunami radiate out and crosses first dart buoy at about three hours," NOAA Engineering Development's Christian Meinig said as he pointed out how the system works.

Lawmakers bumped up the number of tsunami-sensing buoys from six to 50 after a tsunami devastated Indonesia, killing more than 200,000 people. During a quake, a satellite turns on the device.

"It then talks to a sensor on the seafloor and data is sent back to warning center in near real time," Meinig said.

And now inside NOAA's engineering lab where the buoys were first developed, we find the next generation of less-expensive tsunami detection devices.

The old buoys are so big they have to be transported on flatbeds and set out to sea in big ships, while the newer smaller buoys can be dropped in the water with 50-foot fishing boats, cutting costs in half.

"We can enlist the local community (who have) a lot of fishing skills, fishing assets," Meinig said.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) added: "So we save people from tsunamis and save the taxpayers money, that's our goal."

Besides cost, another big change in the buoys being developed here is the Kevlar-coated line that can withstand shark bites, and drops four miles down.

It could be a few years before the new buoys hit sea bottom.