Will We Be Ready When the Killer Quake/Tsunami Comes?

Will We Be Ready When the Killer Quake/Tsunami Comes?

A huge fault line along the Pacific Northwest is about 75 years overdue to cause a magnitude 9+ earthquake and tsunami.
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Tsunamis in Washington

Green Builder Media

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - 7:30am

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It's part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire," and Kathryn Schulz predicts “could be our worst natural disaster ever.” What are we doing about it? I have become a fan of the award-winning writer Kathryn Schulz. She is fluent in several languages, was editor for the environmental magazine Grist and is now a staff writer for The New Yorker. In this last capacity, she has just written one of the best articles I’ve ever read about what was a less well known fault far more dangerous than the better known San Andreas is ever likely to be. And she has reported that there is not much being done to prevent a predictable and overdue disaster.

I’ll share her article highlights and give you a link to it at the end. The article sounds the alarm but does not answer such concerns as to how we make our buildings resistant, how to protect the vulnerable and what survival precautions we should take,

First the details with which to start the conversation. March 11, 2011 was the day a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan. Four plus years later, 230,000 people are living in temporary shelters and nuclear contamination has made some places uninhabitable.

Juan de Fuca: 75 Years Late

Juan de Fuca, the name of the plate subducting our own North American plate, is roughly 75 years overdue to cause a devastating earthquake and tsunami. The zone where the plates meet is the Cascadia subduction zone, so named for the Cascade Mountain range. It runs 700 miles along the Pacific Northwest coast from Vancouver Island, Canada, to Cape Mendocino, Calif. 

When the quake comes, it will shake a sizable area from Seattle to Sacramento. Schulz writes that parts of the affected area will drop as much as six feet and then rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west. Once the shaking has stopped and the tsunami has scrubbed and scrambled areas, these will be “unrecognizable.”  “Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, ‘Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast,’ ” Schulz reports. The area west of I-5 is roughly 140,000 square miles and has a population of seven million people.


CATEGORY: Environment