reminder of the risk of tsunami

reminder of the risk of tsunami

Nearly 100 years ago a 7.5 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Puerto Rico sent 20-foot waves onshore, destroying coastal villages and resulting in 40 deaths.  You can still see the effects of this powerful tsunami at one of the most beautiful and haunting landmarks on this side of the island; the Ponderosa Light House ruins in Aguadilla.

The Ponderosa Lighthouse went into service in 1889 when Puerto Rico was still under Spanish rule.   You can see glimpses of classic Spanish colonial style on the only two walls that remain standing.  It is an amazing place to take pictures as you imagine what it must’ve been like when the earthquake and tsunami hit.

the front door of the ponderosa lighthouse - a stark reminder of the risk of tsunami
the front door
what's left of the back wall of the ponderosa lighthouse - a stark reminder of the risk of tsunami
what’s left of the back wall
glimpses of old world style of the ponderosa lighthouse - a stark reminder of the risk of tsunami
glimpses of old-world style
a view from the beach of the two remaining walls of the ponderosa lighthouse - a stark reminder of the risk of tsunami
a view from the beach showing the two remaining walls

Where we come from in central Texas, there is very little risk of natural disasters.  That’s obviously not the case here on the island.  To say nothing of hurricane risk, it would be foolish to think that another tsunami will not hit Puerto Rico at some point.  Puerto Rico is in an extremely active seismic area where the Caribbean and the North Atlantic plates meet.  In the past year, there have been over 1500 tremors 1.5 magnitude or greater!  The biggest one I felt gently shook my desk as I was working!  It’s shocking for someone from San Antonio to see, and occasionally feel, the seismic activity in this area.  But on the other hand, it’s good that the pressure is constantly being relieved and not allowed to build.  Truthfully, if the tremors were to cease, that would be the time to REALLY get concerned.

As much as I initially wanted to live right on the beach, a healthy respect for mother nature made me reconsider.  Perhaps I’m a little paranoid, but I decided I wanted a little space and elevation separating us from the ocean.  Our condo is about 950 feet from the shore and more importantly, we are on a hill nearly 100 feet above sea level.

Don’t get me wrong.  If you want to live right on the beach, you’ll probably be just fine.  In fact, they have tsunami alarms in the area that are tested at least once a year.  However, I personally felt more comfortable going the extra mile to mitigate the risk of an admittedly unlikely disaster.

If you are in the area, I encourage you to go visit Ruinas Faro Punta Borinquen .  Take pictures.  Go to the beach behind the ruins.  It’s a striking and strangely beautiful landmark.


  • We shall have to go and check this place out. The beauty of the standing walls is awesome!

  • Hi David, we haven’t been there yet and some day will get there. It looks very rustic. We have similar ruins at Puerto Hermina Beach in Quebradilla. I don’t know the history of those ruins but I assume that something similar happened there.

    Keep treking.


    • Hi Tonie, I wouldn’t be surprised if the same earthquake is to blame for the ruins in Quebradilla. A few months ago we saw the film “15 Faros de Puerto Rico” in which they showed much of the damage that the earthquake and resulting tsunami caused to some of the lighthouses around the island.

      Incidentally, a new lighthouse was built in Aguadilla, but it isn’t nearly as large or beautiful.

  • Pingback: personal solar backup power in puerto rico - At Home in Puerto Rico

Leave a Reply