Pacific Northwest Awaits the Big One

August 26th, 2011
in econ_news

tsunami-3 Econintersect: The nation was transfixed this week as a magnitude 5.8 earthquake rattled the U.S. east coast. Most thought that the fuss was overblown and that California with its more frequent and stronger earthquakes should be much more of a concern going forward. However, Outside Magazine has a story that the next “big one” may be north of the Golden State in the ocean off the coast of Oregon and/or Washington. Such a quake, which could be a “niner” (9.0 or larger) is long overdue and creates not only the spectre of massive earthquake damage but the possibility of a tsunami up to 50 feet or more in height.

Follow up:

Outside’s resource is Patrick Corcoran, a professional geographer in Astoria, Oregon, who works full time on earthquake and tsunami hazards with Oregan Sea Grant, affiliated with the University of Oregon.

The big one will be what geologists call a megaquake. Corcoran describes what might happen and the trouble he has in getting people would live in the hazard zone to pay attention. From Outside:

“It breaks my heart to go out and tell people, ‘Hey, you know that place your grandparents immigrated to, the place you call home, that seaside cottage? Well, it turns out to be a high-risk disaster zone. Yeah. We get a massive earthquake every 300 to 500 years around here, and we’re due. They’re super bad. When it comes, it’s a monster. A full-rip nine.’

By “full-rip nine” Corcoran means a mag­ni­tude-9.0 earthquake, the kind of massive off­shore temblor that triggered the tsunami that killed 28,050 people in Japan on March 11, 2011. Geologists call them megaquakes. Geo­logists also call the Northwest coast of North America—from Vancouver Island down to Northern California—one of the like­­liest next victims.

“When that earthquake hits, it’s going to shake for a long time,” says Corcoran. “Three to five minutes or more. You’re going to feel lucky to survive. Then guess what. You rode out the quake? Congratulations. Now you have 15 minutes to get above 50 feet of ele­vation. Fifteen minutes. You’re elderly and not very mobile? Sorry. Your condition does not change the geologic facts. It’s called a tsu­nami. The water’s coming. It can’t be stopped. Don’t ask Jesus to save you. Be your own Jesus.”

This is the prophecy that Corcoran offers to school groups, Rotary Clubs, town ­councils, and first responders up and down the Ore­gon coast. In Newport, Coos Bay, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Gearhart, Waldport, and Bandon, the people have heard his rap. And how do they respond?

“People are like”—he sticks his fingers in his ears—“Na-na-na-na-na-na-na! Can’t hear you!” He shrugs. “It’s human nature. People don’t like to get bad news.”

The article at Outside Magazine is many pages long and is a very good read.

Source: Outside Magazine

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  1. JGBell says :

    A "professional", "geographer", living in Ass-story-eee-Awe, you say.

    As Seth N Amy said to U.S. every SNL: "Oh really?"

    Now, if you told me he lives East of the Cascade Mountains, and commutes West to the Mouth of the Columbia - like Merry Weather Lewis did - when, and only when, there is a new moon - we might begin to think he, and you, are, possibly, sane.

    But, not That Irishman! Oh No, he lives right on the edge of the precipice.

    Then, tells the rest of U.S. to "beware" of the Tides of March! (Sorry, not)

    As the Macah@Neah Bay will explain to you, too - after they moved over here from Siberia about 5,000 +V- years ago - genetically & DNA timed - nothing like that has happened to them, there.

    They truly KNOW that they are FAR more threatened by U.S., than by any ol' earthquakes.

  2. JGBell says :

    Slightly more seriously, if only just, what you really need to know is that those of U.S. who have spent most of our lives in the PNW - aka, Pee-you-Jet-Sound - now know that while the threats of coastal earthquakes are significant, the most timely & serious threat is from volcanic eruptions that, like Mount St. Helens, create a massive "mud flow".

    The most severe is from Mt Rainier, and down the Puyallup Valley! We have it on very good authority that it might even totally wipe out Tacoma! Finally.

    We do NOT mean that That Irishman's point is not very well taken; only that we fear Californicators FAR more than any "natural" phenomenon.

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