Dangerous Drifting Dock Tracked Down by NOAA

Press Release
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Beached Dock: Photo credit USCG

NOAA successfully forecasted the path of a possible Japan Tsunami Dock adrift  off Washington Coast.

The dock washed up on the rocky northern coast of Washington state just before Christmas.

NOAA's Amy MacFadyen describes her role in projecting the path of the partly-submerged dock, a real danger to shipping & possibly the environment:

"We suspect—though we are still waiting for confirmation—that this dock began its oceanic journey in March of 2011 at the Port of Misawa, Japan, following the devastating Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Four docks were ripped away from this port.  Although one of the four turned up several weeks later on an island south of Misawa, three of the large floating structures were still missing.

When this latest dock was spotted on Friday, December 14, we at NOAA were asked to forecast where winds and currents might move the dock over the next few days. The dock is a large, unlit, concrete structure and hence posed a significant hazard to navigation. Furthermore, with stormy weather and strong onshore winds in the forecast, it seemed likely the dock would end up on the beach.

Because the dock was not spotted again after the initial report on December 14, our trajectory could only narrow down the search area to an approximately 50 mile stretch of the Washington coast (remember, forecast error grows with time).

However, using the forecast guidance, state, federal, and tribal representatives mobilized search teams, and the dock was located on the afternoon of December 18 by a Coast Guard helicopter aerial survey. The dock had been washed ashore, most likely sometime during the evening before, on a rugged stretch of coastline north of the Hoh River."

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