Cascadia Subduction Zone
July 13, 2015 7:49 AM   Subscribe

 
Aw, man. When did private browsing stop getting around article counts?
posted by Going To Maine at 7:55 AM on July 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I can give you my short version of the article: fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
posted by Artw at 7:56 AM on July 13, 2015 [33 favorites]




Going to Maine: open in an incognito browser.
posted by waitingtoderail at 8:00 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Aw, man. When did private browsing stop getting around article counts?
Tip: If you're hitting the paywall, Google "the really big one" (the title of the article) and click the appropriate Google link to read the article. No incognito/private browsing necessary.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 8:02 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Instead of an illustration or animation of the subduction zone, the New Yorker uses 3 paragraphs to test your ability to follow strange hand/arm motions and imagine what the plates do.

The web enables so much interactive media, and the only images on this article are not-funny 'cartoons'. What a strange place.
posted by stobor at 8:07 AM on July 13, 2015 [55 favorites]


Still on the other hand the scientists think there's a bit less of a chance of Yellowstone going kaboom and killing everyone
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:08 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


We could solve this problem with engineering.

I propose a huge timber seawall located offshore to act as a break. The timber used in construction will sequester a massive amount of carbon.
posted by humanfont at 8:09 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]




Instead of an illustration or animation of the subduction zone, the New Yorker uses 3 paragraphs to test your ability to follow strange hand/arm motions and imagine what the plates do.

Ah but that was how I was taught about subduction zones and earthquakes when I did geology at fe college so awesome nostalgia there.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:10 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Man, neither of the suggestions posted here worked for me. Stupid New Yorker pay wall.
posted by Kitteh at 8:17 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I bet this'll be the thing that keeps the Twin Peaks revival from happening, won't it?
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:17 AM on July 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


the only images on this article are not-funny 'cartoons'.

Perhaps I've said too much. PERHAPS I'VE SAID TOO MUCH@@!!
posted by Trochanter at 8:17 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ugh
posted by hellojed at 8:18 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Instead of an illustration or animation of the subduction zone, the New Yorker uses 3 paragraphs to test your ability to follow strange hand/arm motions and imagine what the plates do.

Yeah, I actually thought this was pretty cool.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:18 AM on July 13, 2015 [21 favorites]


Up here in Victoria, just north of Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, just west of Bellingham and Whidbey Island (we can hear the Growlers practice taking off from the air strip), the Big One is definitely a concern.

If you look at what happened to Christchurch in New Zealand a few years ago, it could be Victoria's future for sure. Many of the buildings in our downtown core date back to the late 1800's, and are made of brick and beam. Most of the soil will liquify if and when the Big One happens.

It's maddening actually, since the City of Victoria does not provide particularly accurate liquification maps.

We also have a great view of Mount Baker, which is technically an active volcano.

I'm not sure how the Big One will affect Victoria and Vancouver Island. I'm guessing it might happen far out to sea and create a tsunami that wipes out, say Portland, but not us... denial is a powerful thing.

I work on the 3rd floor of our house and I am pretty certain that I feel earthquake tremors at least twice a month.

BTW, the New Yorker is mainly a print publication designed for reading on the train. You can't include animations in a paper magazine.
posted by Nevin at 8:19 AM on July 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


Actually do the hand thing, it's terrifying. Especially if you live on a knuckle.
posted by Artw at 8:21 AM on July 13, 2015 [36 favorites]


The newcomers took the land they encountered at face value, and at face value it was a find: vast, cheap, temperate, fertile, and, to all appearances, remarkably benign.

Except for all the volcanoes! And vast sheets of lava along the Columbia Hood! And the lava all over the damn place!

edited to correct Columbia to Hood.
posted by rtha at 8:22 AM on July 13, 2015


Instead of an illustration or animation of the subduction zone, the New Yorker uses 3 paragraphs to test your ability to follow strange hand/arm motions and imagine what the plates do.

I kind of like that the thread is dominated by (1) why isn't there extra web-optimized content? and (2) how do we avoid paying anything for what content there already is?

I mean, I'm not paying for it either. And If I were a homeowner in the inundation zone, I'd probably not vote for the property tax increase. It's just how people work.
posted by rewil at 8:23 AM on July 13, 2015 [60 favorites]


Which is unfortunate, given that the Pacific Northwest is one of the areas of the US that should be least impacted by climate change.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:23 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]




When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater.

Surf's up.
posted by three blind mice at 8:27 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Man, neither of the suggestions posted here worked for me. Stupid New Yorker pay wall.

If you have an instapaper account, you can save it or hit the "later" button and add it to your collection of articles to read. I know that for a number of paywalls, this works. And as an added benefit, you get to read it in a super snazzy, clear-format without all the ads.
posted by Fizz at 8:29 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Except for all the volcanoes! And vast sheets of lava along the Columbia! And the lava all over the damn place!

It took them an age to figure out the Missoula Floods, which is one of my favorite geological events in part because it's safely in prehistory.
posted by Artw at 8:31 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


> I asked Dougherty about the state’s long-range plan. “There is no long-range plan,” he said.

This bit could be from an article about virtually anything.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:31 AM on July 13, 2015 [54 favorites]


Well, I get that it is primarily print, but a couple illustrations would have gotten the point across. And probably saved some column-inches.

Now I'm just imagining a bunch of people on the train with newspapers on their lap, elbowing their neighbors. "Oh, sorry. I'm just visualizing the impending doom facing the PNW"
posted by stobor at 8:32 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


the only images on this article are not-funny 'cartoons'.

"Christ, what an asshole a faultline."
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:33 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


(Casually looks up regions free of tectonic activity, natural disasters, or dangerous coastlines)

hello Mongolia!
posted by The Whelk at 8:33 AM on July 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


We need a plan to save Portland. Somebody come up with it and we'll get Mike Nesmith to pay for it.
posted by maxsparber at 8:34 AM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


I found it fairly effective in evoking the destruction of everything west of I5, which is where I keep all my stuff and my family, to the point where I am looking at my house in very new and interesting ways this morning.

At least it is on a hill.
posted by Artw at 8:35 AM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


On the upside, when we rebuild, we can do shiny new infrastructure and urban planning and not have to deal with all the accumulated cruft.

There is more retrofitting happening in the downtown PDX core these days, and a preparedness mindset is growing. I am optimistic.

(Because the alternative is just to give up)
posted by curious nu at 8:35 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now I'm just imagining a bunch of people on the train with newspapers on their lap, elbowing their neighbors. "Oh, sorry. I'm just visualizing the impending doom facing the PNW"

Really, all you need to take away from this is:

If the Pacific Northwest be rockin', next the ocean's gonna come callin'.
posted by nubs at 8:36 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I kind of like that the thread is dominated by (1) why isn't there extra web-optimized content? and (2) how do we avoid paying anything for what content there already is?

I have a New Yorker subscription. I think it's 50 bucks a year for American residents. I'm (mostly) in Canada, and it cost me $100. It's a great deal. And I love the cartoons :)
posted by Nevin at 8:39 AM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


What a refreshing way to start the week, learning about the imminent disaster that will destroy everything precious to me, thanks Art.

I think what's maddening is how little government officials talk about or apparently plan around seismic concerns, compared with growing up in the Bay Area where you wouldn't even walk into a brick building without thinking about how fucked you would be if the big one hit while you were in there. In Seattle, everyone's kid goes to school in a hundred year old unretrofitted brick building. The viaduct should have been demolished 20'years ago.

I really hope this article gets people talking. The fuckage is best mediated by lots of people being aware over a long period of time. Where are the liquification zones in Seattle? What can we expect from a tsunami, how far away from the waterfront is safe, and will Lake Union and Lake Washington be affected? And for fucks sake, can we please keep in the long term budget plan either rebuilding or retrofitting some of our crumbling schools?

On a more immediate practical note, I think we need to cut Ballard loose now. They are totally fucked out there on the water anyway, they've never really contributed to the local economy, the Seafood Fest is a just a disgusting mess that made the place uninhabitable this past weekend and with all the condos Ballard is just really really over now.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:41 AM on July 13, 2015 [34 favorites]


We bought an old 1910 house several years ago, and I love it to death, but it's a house that was...built in 1910. We got some retrofitting done in the basement to help reduce the likelihood that the whole house will slide off the foundation—or, more to the point and more distressingly, off the (how is there no other industry word for this yet?) cripple wall that holds the house three feet above the actual foundation—but the reality is that you can really only nudge the odds and only up to a certain magnitude of event. We got better gas line failure cutoff hardware put in as well so that at least the house is less likely to burn down in the bargain.

It's some Damoclesian shit, we keep some basic emergency supplies in the shed and I mostly just try not to think about it and keep my fingers crossed that we'll make it another several decades without The Big One.
posted by cortex at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Which is unfortunate, given that the Pacific Northwest is one of the areas of the US that should be least impacted by climate change.

Are you kidding? It's just been 80+ degrees in Seattle for two weeks, the longest heat wave ever. Up here in BC the long, hot dry spell has provided perfect conditions for raging forest fires, so much so that Vancouver and Victoria were blanketed by smog and ash last week.
posted by Nevin at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Ok everybody, now we can all play everyone's favorite game: Does God own a product from Cupertino, CA or Redmond, WA? Or at least which company's product he is more frustrated with....
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm assuming that means everything South of here is basically Mad Max.
posted by Artw at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


i really liked all the science-y dead forest parts of the article and would love a piece that is more of that and maybe less of paragraphs stuffed with broken hearts and figurines and such.
posted by nadawi at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The article might get people talking, but running on a platform of levying taxes now for something that *might* happen in the future is a sure-fire way to lose an election.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:46 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Everywhere in this world there is something that will kill you and destroy all of your worldly possessions. Move to the mountains it'll be mudslides. Move to the midwest and it'll be a tornado. Move to the Atlantic coast and you get hurricanes. Move to New England and it's blizzards. Move to Hawaii and it's a tsunami. Move to New York and it's a criminal. Move to upstate New York and it's boredom.

Have a modicum of preparedness and hope that you have the will and wits to survive when push comes to shove.
posted by Talez at 8:47 AM on July 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


For everyone who hit the paywall [1], The Toast summarizes.

It's interesting to read, because even someone who can be as consummately funny as Mallory Ortberg is openly looking PNW-ward and audibly gulping.


Correction: This wasn't Ortberg, it was Nicole Cliffe. Sorry.
[1] Sorry, very bad metaphor here.
posted by seyirci at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


We need a plan to save Portland. Somebody come up with it and we'll get Mike Nesmith to pay for it.

In a bit of cruel irony, the plan winds up requiring fluoridated water.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2015 [22 favorites]


“We can’t save them,” Kevin Cupples says. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll go around and check on the elderly.’ No. We won’t.”

welp this is almost refreshing I guess?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2015 [20 favorites]


um. mallory ortberg didn't write that toast piece, it was written by nicole cliffe.
posted by nadawi at 8:49 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The bit with the school scares the crap out of me.
posted by Artw at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Great, I'm three hundred feet above Puget sound on Capitol hill, so no worries for the tsunami. The fourth floor of a 100-year-old unreinforced masonry building—not so great.

Then there's Mt. Rainier, considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, if it wakes up. We're so screwed.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nice try Artw, but they're all going to come here anyway.
posted by jamjam at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


Metafilter: It's a great deal. And I love the cartoons :)
posted by Fizz at 8:51 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


On a more immediate practical note, I think we need to cut Ballard loose now. They are totally fucked out there on the water anyway, they've never really contributed to the local economy, the Seafood Fest is a just a disgusting mess that made the place uninhabitable this past weekend and with all the condos Ballard is just really really over now.

On the other hand, I sense an opportunity. All you have to do is convince all the telephone sanitizers, account executives, hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, and management consultants to move to Ballard.

The name even starts with a B!
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:51 AM on July 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


(Talez: About the tsunami that is described here, the article says "The only way to survive [that] is not be there."

They'd have 15 minutes to evacuate.

Given that, I don't know how they forecast the death toll as only (only!) 13000. Though they do mention that this may be an order of magnitude higher during tourist season…)
posted by seyirci at 8:51 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, where exactly am I supposed to live to avoid all possible natural disasters? Phoenix seems like a decent bet and I lived there until I was 12, but I'm a little more political these days and I don't like what I see from AZ anymore...
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:52 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


“Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”

/smug east portlander
posted by mrzarquon at 8:53 AM on July 13, 2015 [21 favorites]


The article might get people talking, but running on a platform of levying taxes now for something that *might* happen in the future is a sure-fire way to lose an election.

Except that people in California and Japan have been doing exactly this for decades. And the PNW prides itself on being more progressive and more highly educated than most places (also better looking).

Are you kidding? It's just been 80+ degrees in Seattle for two weeks, the longest heat wave ever. Up here in BC the long, hot dry spell has provided perfect conditions for raging forest fires, so much so that Vancouver and Victoria were blanketed by smog and ash last week.

Um, we have some water in our lakes and streams and some of our farmers are still producing food.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:54 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Victoria is at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. To get out of Victoria you can drive due north up the east coast of the Island, or northwest along the coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. About 40 minutes from Victoria the tsunami warning signs start to appear as you get closer to the open Pacific.

Victoria is not supposed to be in too much danger from a tsunami, and neither is Vancouver. I don't see how Seattle could ever be hit by one.
posted by Nevin at 8:55 AM on July 13, 2015


So, it says "we now know that the Pacific Northwest has experienced forty-one subduction-zone earthquakes in the past ten thousand years" and then starts talking about averages, but can we get an actual rundown of when those forty-one quakes occurred?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:55 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Between the tectonic threat and the volcanic threat, the only piece of info out of this that I'm enjoying is knowing that I'm living in FEMA's Region X. Yes, I know that's Roman numeral X not the letter X. But, I'm still gonna call it Region X from now on.
posted by mhum at 8:56 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Part of me finds this as justification for just moving to Christchurch. Still hundreds of quakes a year, but it appears the major disruptive force of them have been released for a while.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:57 AM on July 13, 2015


/smug east portlander

By some quirk of tectonics and geomorphology, St. Johns will be the only part of the city unscathed by The Event; all else will be in ruins, people living amongst burning rubble, any semblance of civilization crumbled along with the brickwork.

And I'll be all, "come by the house, we have running water, food, fuel."

And they'll still be like, "ugh, but North Portland, that's so faaaaaaaar..."
posted by cortex at 8:58 AM on July 13, 2015 [71 favorites]


(Talez: About the tsunami that is described here, the article says "The only way to survive [that] is not be there."

They'd have 15 minutes to evacuate.


The alternative is to pack up your entire life at great expense and move to another place where you may have lesser risks on a more frequent basis because there's a 1 in 10 chance in 50 years that this something bad might happen? You're more likely to die driving with a uhaul trailer behind you going out of the area!

Humans really are shitty at risk.
posted by Talez at 8:59 AM on July 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


From what I can remember, Connecticut is actually supposed to be the safest in terms of natural disasters. They get the occasional blizzard, but other than that, not much.

Of course, then you have to live in Connecticut.

I remember the Nisiqually earthquake in 2001. I had thought that it was rather big, but nope, it was only a 6.8. Everything was fine then, but that was only a 6.8. I have a lot of friends in the PNW. I think everyone in Portland always figures they are far enough inland to only need to worry about regular earthquake type stuff (I know I did when I lived there). The size of the tsunami is terrifying.
posted by Hactar at 9:00 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


the only images on this article are not-funny 'cartoons'.

I say it's spinach and I say OH SWEET MERCIFUL JESUS WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE
posted by octobersurprise at 9:00 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


“Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”

/smug east portlander

I realize you're joking, but it's pretty clear they did this for narrative effect. I5 runs through the Willamette Valley, which is a valley. Everything west of the Cascades is going to be toast.

If you're in the Willamette Valley, btw, there's a high likelihood your home or any building you may be in rests on earth that is sitting on a layer of moist, compact clay. If you're on a hill, that means a large enough earthquake (which won't need to be very large) will send anything built on it sliding down.
posted by fraula at 9:01 AM on July 13, 2015



Given that, I don't know how they forecast the death toll as only (only!) 13000.


After reading the article, 13,000 dead seems like a criminally incompetent estimate. Although given how tax-adverse the population is, I'm not sure a larger, more realistic, estimate would be sufficient to focus people's attention on the danger. If they're not willing to raise taxes to make sure their children won't be swept away by a giant wave, they're sure not going to be willing to shoulder the costs of protecting everything else that's important to them.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:03 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Instead of an illustration or animation of the subduction zone, the New Yorker uses 3 paragraphs to test your ability to follow strange hand/arm motions and imagine what the plates do.

I'd love to see Roz Chast take a crack at this, actually.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:04 AM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


13,000 dead seems like a criminally incompetent estimate

For others who might have skimmed the article, this estimate was for "9:41 A.M. on February 6th. If, instead, it strikes in the summer, when the beaches are full, those numbers could be off by a horrifying margin."

I can't imagine how scary this article must be if you live in the danger zone, I think it would make me seriously consider leaving the area. "half of all highway bridges, fifteen of the seventeen bridges spanning Portland’s two rivers, and two-thirds of railways and airports" will collapse if the earthquake surpasses 9.0, and after the infrastructure has been wrecked:

"Depending on location, they will have between ten and thirty minutes to get out. That time line does not allow for finding a flashlight, tending to an earthquake injury, hesitating amid the ruins of a home, searching for loved ones, or being a Good Samaritan. “When that tsunami is coming, you run,” Jay Wilson, the chair of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission (OSSPAC), says. “You protect yourself, you don’t turn around, you don’t go back to save anybody. You run for your life.”

Fucking terrifying.
posted by DynamiteToast at 9:08 AM on July 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


> And I'll be all, "come by the house, we have running water, food, fuel."

And they'll still be like, "ugh, but North Portland, that's so faaaaaaaar..."


"Is Santa Cruz Taqueria still open, cause then it's worth the trip"
posted by mrzarquon at 9:08 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Only one tiny side mention of hydroelectric dams failing during a gigantic earthquake anywhere in the article? Because along with the release of water that results also comes the failure of the generating base for the power grid, something which can't be restored as easily as "we'll just turn it back on".

Living 280 miles E of Seattle, I'm not that worried about a tsunami, but the earthquake and its aftereffects are going to be hell for everyone in this area.
posted by hippybear at 9:08 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


On a lighter note, I love that the New Yorker put the umlaut on coordinate.
posted by DynamiteToast at 9:09 AM on July 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Slarty Bartfast: "Um, we have some water in our lakes and streams and some of our farmers are still producing food."

Yeah, but for how long? California's in year four of their drought. Washington just started their first, although if I recall correctly, the 2014 snow pack levels were quite low by historic standards, though not low enough to trigger a drought. Also, the current El Nino cycle portends a warm 2016 winter which would not be great for building back up the snow pack.
posted by mhum at 9:10 AM on July 13, 2015


Previously linked simulation from the WSDOT.

I find it interesting because it's from the department of transportation and it shows the entire thing collapsing on top of cars who fall into the ocean and then catch on fire.

I was expecting something a lot more sedate.
posted by Lord_Pall at 9:11 AM on July 13, 2015 [18 favorites]


Also, the current El Nino cycle portends a warm 2016 winter which would not be great for building back up the snow pack.
I expect arkStorm this winter in California.
posted by Lord_Pall at 9:12 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mental images of horrific devastation aside, I'm absolutely fascinated by the correlation between Genroku-era Japanese tsumami and earthquake records, Native American oral traditions, and the rings of dead trees on the coast of Washington. It's like seeing all the threads of a really well-written novel come together at the end, only it's in the world I actually inhabit. It gives me the same sense of childlike wonder as the idea that Australian Aboriginal oral traditions are historically accurate.
posted by curiousgene at 9:13 AM on July 13, 2015 [76 favorites]


So, it says "we now know that the Pacific Northwest has experienced forty-one subduction-zone earthquakes in the past ten thousand years" and then starts talking about averages, but can we get an actual rundown of when those forty-one quakes occurred?

It's about once every 250 years. The last big one happened on January 26, 1700. We know the precise date because the tsunami from the earthquake was recorded in Japan.
posted by Nevin at 9:13 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


On a lighter note, I love that the New Yorker put the umlaut on coordinate.

Diacritical marks are an old standard with the New Yorker. Welcome!
posted by hippybear at 9:13 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I don't see how Seattle could ever be hit by one.

Puget Sound Tsunami Inundation Modeling Preliminary Report : Phase 2

PDF: Tsunami Hazard Map of the Elliott Bay Area, Seattle, Washington: Modeled Tsunami Inundation from a Seattle Fault Earthquake

Video: Seattle Fault Earthquake - Seattle Inundation;
These animations are based on a simulated magnitude (Mw) 7.3 earthquake along the Seattle Fault. Details on the fault parameters and subsequent analysis at Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, are available in Titov et al., 2003 and Venturato et al., 2007, respectively.
posted by rtha at 9:14 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Then the wave will arrive, and the real destruction will begin." wow. chilling
posted by supermedusa at 9:14 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Our split-level ranch house north of Ballard will probably not crumble into ruins in a quake, (built in 1960, not made of bricks, etc.), and we,re high enough I don't think the tsunami will get here. Still, the infrastructure is gonna get wrecked. Belltown and the Denny regrade will liquefy, the viaduct if it's still there will come down. Who knows what horror will visit the new tunnel, if it's in operation.
posted by Windopaene at 9:14 AM on July 13, 2015


Victoria is not supposed to be in too much danger from a tsunami, and neither is Vancouver. I don't see how Seattle could ever be hit by one.

I'm sure Roland Emmerich could figure out a way.
posted by item at 9:15 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's about once every 250 years.

Sorry, that's once every 500 years. But living in Victoria I think I have heard 250.
posted by Nevin at 9:15 AM on July 13, 2015


When I was a kid every summer we'd visit an exhibit on the Juan De Fuca and our inevitable catastrophe. All my life it has been "just around the corner." One hates to sound impatient, but I'd almost rather get it over with.

I remember a fairly small earthquake maybe about 15 years ago; I think it was a 4.0-ish event. I was TAing for one of my favourite language arts teachers of all time and I felt what I thought was a student jiggling their leg against my desk but I started looking around to see who it was and when I looked toward the window the motion caught my eye -- the ground was undulating smoothly. I stood up and stared out the window mesmerized, wondering if I was hallucinating or getting sick or what was going on. Of course I knew what an earthquake was by that point in my life but no one had ever suggested that it might come on as a subtle pleasurable nausea feeling in my body, difficult to differentiate from the surroundings as it was. Said LA teacher then exclaimed "what the hell are you doing?!" and pushed me under a desk.

I think this might just be the week I finally start participating on MCARES (if I can overcome my radio-shyness).

Here's a hazard map by the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management. When I last moved I managed to get out of the liquefaction zone, which is nice, but being a renter who knows where I'll be when it counts.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 9:16 AM on July 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I found particularly haunting the bit about the mystery tsunami that hit Japan in 1700 and whose cause remained undetermined until the 1990s because the Native Americans who experienced the earthquake at the time didn't have a written language to record it for posterity.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:16 AM on July 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


Rocks, like us, get stiffer as they age.

Help, I'm a rock.
posted by Dean358 at 9:17 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


A question: what does it mean for soil to "liquefy"? In layperson's terms, what is the mechanism for that? Does it mean that the soil basically turns into water? Assuming no tsunami or other source of flooding, does the soil turn back into a solid after the earthquake, or is it sludgy water-mud forever?
posted by witchen at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2015


It's about once every 250 years.

On AVERAGE, yeah. But that doesn't really tell you much.

Apparently there was an 800-year gap between the last one and the second to last one, for example.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Noted.
posted by ColdChef at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I see we're all Totoally Psyched For The Full-Rip Nine

The Depiction blog has data and viewers for WA state liquefaction data.

Cascadia: The Hidden Fire
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


That Toast piece is some fine trolling.
posted by GrapeApiary at 9:20 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hopefully word gets out and people stop moving there.
posted by ChuckRamone at 9:20 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


" Liquefaction is a phenomenon in which the strength and stiffness of a soil is reduced by earthquake shaking or other rapid loading. Liquefaction and related phenomena have been responsible for tremendous amounts of damage in historical earthquakes around the world.

Liquefaction occurs in saturated soils, that is, soils in which the space between individual particles is completely filled with water. This water exerts a pressure on the soil particles that influences how tightly the particles themselves are pressed together. Prior to an earthquake, the water pressure is relatively low. However, earthquake shaking can cause the water pressure to increase to the point where the soil particles can readily move with respect to each other."

Soil Liquefaction courtesy of University of Washington. It's a major concern in construction.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:21 AM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


I personally hope I get wiped out by this inevitable tsunami so I don't have to read any more articles about how I'm going to die by some inevitable tsunami.
posted by hellojed at 9:22 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Soil liquefaction demo
posted by Matt Oneiros at 9:22 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm told that the recent Nepal earthquakes were especially devastating because so many of the buildings were made of mud bricks, which are themselves subject to liquefaction.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:23 AM on July 13, 2015


... whose cause remained undetermined until the 1990s because the Native Americans who experienced the earthquake at the time didn't have a written language to record it for posterity.

Neither did Australian Aborigines - whites there were just, despite their best efforts, less effective at exterminating the native population and effacing its culture. Being irreparably cut off from some of the deep history of the continent is just one more price the United States pays for the genocide of Native Americans.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:24 AM on July 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


It's obviously a very serious thing, but the level of hyperbole in that article is kind of extreme:

The next full-margin rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone will spell the worst natural disaster in the history of the continent.

No, not even close. The next time the Yellowstone Caldera lets loose it's going to devastate nearly all of North America.

And the side effects of the Chicxulub impact were even greater yet.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:28 AM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Better King County liquefaction map (PDF).

I'm out of tsunami risk, out of liquefaction risk. If we can make it 10 more years for my kids to get out of their crumbling school we'll be good. You hear that King County Council? You got 10 years to get me to approve a property tax increase for seismic preparedness, then I'll be like fuck all y'all.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:29 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Compressional waves are fast-moving, high-frequency waves, audible to dogs and certain other animals but experienced by humans only as a sudden jolt. They are not very harmful, but they are potentially very useful, since they travel fast enough to be detected by sensors thirty to ninety seconds ahead of other seismic waves. That is enough time for earthquake early-warning systems, such as those in use throughout Japan, to automatically perform a variety of lifesaving functions: shutting down railways and power plants, opening elevators and firehouse doors, alerting hospitals to halt surgeries, and triggering alarms so that the general public can take cover. The Pacific Northwest has no early-warning system. When the Cascadia earthquake begins, there will be, instead, a cacophony of barking dogs and a long, suspended, what-was-that moment before the surface waves arrive.

Emphasis mine. Screaming and rocking in fetal position also mine.

Southern California is supposed to start rolling out an early warning system this year, though it's already sort of in beta.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:29 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


How has no one mentioned yet that one of the main scientists behind this is named Goldfinger? Goldfinger. This is obviously just viral marketing for Spectre, and if a few hundred thousand lives have to be lost in order to drive up the box office numbers a bit then so be it.
posted by item at 9:30 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm reminded of an askme from a couple months ago, "Should we move to Portland OR despite the impending 'Big' Earthquake?", and the answers that suggested that the asker must not know much about earthquakes because they really aren't such a big deal (ha!), or that Portland is no different from any other place on earth as far as risk (haha!) or they should buy earthquake insurance (hahaha!).
posted by jjwiseman at 9:33 AM on July 13, 2015 [28 favorites]


It's obviously a very serious thing, but the level of hyperbole in that article is kind of extreme:

The next full-margin rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone will spell the worst natural disaster in the history of the continent.

No, not even close. The next time the Yellowstone Caldera lets loose it's going to devastate nearly all of North America.


That's like an Ice Age or an asteroid hitting the planet kind of shit. I can't even wrap my head around it. We know a really big earthquake is going to hit in the next couple generations, and if the U.S. experienced 28,000 deaths the way the tiny island of Japan did, it would easily qualify as the worst natural disaster in the human recorded history of the continent.

So, yes, PANIC!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:34 AM on July 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


Connecticut is actually supposed to be the safest in terms of natural disasters. They get the occasional blizzard, but other than that, not much.

There is also the occasional hurricane.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on July 13, 2015


We owned a piece of property here on Whidbey for a few years which had the Whidbey fault bisecting it; now we're thankfully almost ten blocks away. (eyeroll).

Our house, according to Earth, is 150' above the current waterline. I kinda doubt it will make it through a 9.0 quake. After that, south Whidbey Island is uninhabitable anyway, if for no other reason it will take literal months to get power back on out here, and food? There are enough deer to last us a few weeks, I guess.

It's funny, I was at a birthday gig for a friend this weekend, and his wife and I were laughing at how when you're 20 you want to live forever, and now we're all roughly 50 she and I were in agreement that "another 20 - 30 years is more than enough." I sure as shit don't want to be 70 and trying to sort out this mess.
posted by maxwelton at 9:36 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I grew up west of the Cascades. My entire family is still there. It's God's country. This article was fucking terrifying
posted by angrycat at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's like an Ice Age or an asteroid hitting the planet kind of shit. I can't even wrap my head around it.

Don't worry, we'll soon have practice for one of them!
posted by mittens at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of lurching in that article.
posted by chavenet at 9:40 AM on July 13, 2015



Chocolate Pickle: "No, not even close. The next time the Yellowstone Caldera lets loose it's going to devastate nearly all of North America."

When Yellowstone lets loose history will stop being recorded.
posted by Mitheral at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


My family has a saying: if you're born to hang, you'll never drown.

That's going to be going through my mind a lot next weekend between when I touch down in Portland and when I take off four days later.
posted by thecaddy at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2015


Well, maybe I'm crossing Seattle off the "place I think I might like to move to someday" list. Eek.
posted by dnash at 9:42 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


From what I can remember, Connecticut is actually supposed to be the safest in terms of natural disasters. They get the occasional blizzard, but other than that, not much.

Of course, then you have to live in Connecticut.


Connecticut is basically a hellmouth, which is probably some kind of natural disaster zone.
posted by sonmi at 9:42 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the fracking operations going on in the Midwest are going to be a trigger for the Big One over here. I read a paper in Nature not too long ago about how fracking causes formerly stable regions to suffer serious earthquakes, and that those geological failures then travel through the Earth to cause quakes some days later in other continents. Hopefully we have a bit more science to do prediction by the time the next Big One hits, so that not too many people die, let alone lose their homes and livelihoods.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:42 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


In theory, those who are at home when it hits should be safest; it is easy and relatively inexpensive to seismically safeguard a private dwelling. But, lulled into nonchalance by their seemingly benign environment, most people in the Pacific Northwest have not done so.

And this is why I am seen as a nutty "prepper" for having 3 weeks worth of supplies in my San Fernando Valley home that has survived both the Sylmar and Northridge earthquakes, roughly 15 miles away each.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:44 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Downside: the loss of friends I love.
Upside: business is good.
posted by ColdChef at 9:46 AM on July 13, 2015 [53 favorites]


That wiki article about the Yellowstone Caldera was actually comforting...not likely to spawn a super erruption, is what it repeatedly says...not that I want it to erupt at all. The West Coast, for sure, is a terrifying place to live.
posted by agregoli at 9:47 AM on July 13, 2015


I wonder if the fracking operations going on in the Midwest are going to be a trigger for the Big One over here. I read a paper in Nature not too long ago about how fracking causes formerly stable regions to suffer serious earthquakes, and that those geological failures then travel through the Earth to cause quakes some days later in other continents. Hopefully we have a bit more science to do prediction by the time the next Big One hits, so that not too many people die, let alone lose their homes and livelihoods.
If tectonic stress is distributed somewhat evenly across the North American plate, then fracking may be relieving some of that tension in the form of much smaller and less destructive quakes. Too bad about the ground water, though.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:48 AM on July 13, 2015


A bit of good news: There's exactly one nuclear reactor in the northwest, and it's east of the Cascades.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:49 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not that this isn't a terrifying possibility, living in Portland, but this same article keeps getting written against and again and again and again. Though it's not always apocalyptic.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:49 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


For those living in Oregon, OPB's Aftershock gives a good description of what to expect at your location during and after the earthquake. Note that areas well east of the Cascades are still significantly affected because of supply issues following the quake.
posted by pernoctalian at 9:49 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've spent enough time listening to the tornado sirens and wondering...

True, a catastrophic earthquake (an then there's the volcanos) is far more likely to actually destroy my home and kill people who are precious to me. But at least I don't have a face to face confrontation with my mortality at least once a year, with the sky looking the part of sentient evil.
posted by wotsac at 9:50 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I live in an older house in the Willamette Valley. What keeps me awake at night, sometimes literally, is that i have not yet had my house fastened to my foundation in a way that will make it insurable in case of earthquake. A few thousand bucks to do this, with an uncertain prospect of actually working to keep the house viable as a domicile.

But I would insured, just in case.
posted by Danf at 9:50 AM on July 13, 2015


This thread is like a rousing chorus of "America: learning curves are for pussies!"

Have a modicum of preparedness and hope that you have the will and wits to survive when push comes to shove.


Yeah, that's the way to deal with foreseeable, unavoidable, massive-scale disasters. Just tell everyone to stiffen their upper lips and rely on their wits. Changes to building codes? Disaster preparedness education? Coordinated relief and response plans? Bah--that stuff's for foreigners and pussies (as if there was a difference, am I right?)!
posted by yoink at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2015 [26 favorites]


So, yes, PANIC!
posted by Slarty Bartfast


no no, you've got it backwards...where's your towel?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:53 AM on July 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Well, maybe I'm crossing Seattle off the "place I think I might like to move to someday" list. Eek.

ARTW: OPERATION CASCADIA BRAVO PROCEEDING ON SCHEDULE. DO YOU READ? CONTINUE RAINY WEATHER FORECAST DISSEMINATION. EARTHQUAKE TSUNAMI PHASE II UNDER WAY. DEPLOY MEDIA SATURATION VECTOR "RAINIER VOLCANO IMMINENT."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:53 AM on July 13, 2015 [30 favorites]


I live and work in the zone, for a big Japanese company, and here at work some guys will make jokes about the silly Japanese policy of not stocking any parts on shelves over my head.
Yeah we're ready. I'm ready to live closer to the coast for a while.
posted by shenkerism at 9:56 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, it says "we now know that the Pacific Northwest has experienced forty-one subduction-zone earthquakes in the past ten thousand years" and then starts talking about averages, but can we get an actual rundown of when those forty-one quakes occurred?

There's a reasonable rundown of how many years ago each event was in Table 10 of this paper. Looking at the mean ages in the second column, the minimum gap was 27 years and the maximum was 577 years. (Plus or minus a bunch - the paper gives various date estimates and standard deviations on all the estimated ages, but it gives you a rough idea at any rate.)
posted by pemberkins at 9:57 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


A bit of good news: There's exactly one nuclear reactor in the northwest, and it's east of the Cascades.

Well, land based ones anyway.

The Sub base on the Kistap Peninsula, the Shipyard in Bremerton, and The Aircraft Carrier(s) in Everett have quite a few.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:57 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I grew up west of the Cascades. My entire family is still there. It's God's country. This article was fucking terrifying

I'd take that article with a couple of grains of salt. First, is there only one seismologist in all the Pacific Northwest? This reporter spoke to Chris Goldfinger of Oregon State, but failed to speak to anyone at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, which includes not only the Universities of Washington and Oregon, but also US DoE, the USGS, and the states of Washington and Oregon. Curious omission, that. Second, the tsunami portion omits any mention of what would happen within the Puget Sound. This is where the vast majority of Washington's economy resides, and a tsunami that wipes out the coast wouldn't affect the state economy as severely as one that hammers the interior of the Puget Sound. I don't know what would happen in the event of a tsunami, and that seems like important infomation to have.

Southern California is supposed to start rolling out an early warning system this year, though it's already sort of in beta.

Good news, so is the PNSN.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:58 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


There's a bit more than one.
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, uh, when they say "west of I-5", they really mean that right? Because I live right off of I-5 down near the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, but I'm on the east side, so I'm expecting I-5 to act as some sort of magical barrier. Also I'm moving away in October, so if doomsday could just hold off a couple of months, I'd appreciate that.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 10:01 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


The West Coast, for sure, is a terrifying place to live.

As I said when I moved back to California >25 years ago, I'll take the occasional earthquake (and potential "impending" apocalypse that might happen when I hit this submit button or millennia from now) over an annual hurricane or tornado season.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:07 AM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


but failed to speak to anyone at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network,

If this piece on the Cascadia subduction zone from the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network website is anything to go by, the reporter would not have received a very different picture from them: http://pnsn.org/blog/2013/1/24/the-last-cascadia-great-earthquake-and-tsunami-313-years-and-ticking
posted by yoink at 10:07 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I blame immigrants for this. (Vote for me)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:08 AM on July 13, 2015


The wife is from Seattle, has family there. Maybe this will get her mind off of global climate change.

But seriously, this is so very scary.
posted by Splunge at 10:08 AM on July 13, 2015


One of the last things I did working at PSU was do the tech support for a geologist's presentation about Portland's earthquake plans. Being at PSU was great, so went the logic, because it's close to the bedrock of the West Hills and there's a nice flat practice field for the rescue helicopters to land on. That being said, the library building was in two halves and my very first day included clear instructions on which half I wanted to be in when the quake hit. (The new half with the glass front, NOT the brick half.)

There's a fault line running right down the Willamette, so I don't know if I'd count on I-5 being a barrier. (Also I have no idea why south downtown ever got built, all of that is on sand and it will be Liquefaction Central.) I'd also be really nervous about all of the I-405 bridges.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:09 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Celsius1414, its not just that, but droughts, fires, dying oceans, etc.
posted by agregoli at 10:11 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's obviously a very serious thing, but the level of hyperbole in that article is kind of extreme: The next full-margin rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone will spell the worst natural disaster in the history of the continent. No, not even close. The next time the Yellowstone Caldera lets loose it's going to devastate nearly all of North America.

Not hyperbole at all if you want to talk about human history, in which case the Yellowstone Caldera is not a risk. The last super eruption was about 640,000 years ago, long before humans arrived in North America, and the average eruptions are more than 800,000 years apart. Even if an eruption were to become imminent, we would probably get a century to two of advance warning. The caldera build up is a very slow event and easily measured.

What makes the Cascadia event dangerous is that it could happen at any time without warning. It could happen tomorrow or it could happen a century from now, but certainly within human history. Not so for the Yellowstone Caldera.
posted by JackFlash at 10:13 AM on July 13, 2015 [18 favorites]


A bit of good news: There's exactly one nuclear reactor in the northwest, and it's east of the Cascades.

It's not so simple. The Trojan plant is decommissioned now, and its reactor core was transported to Hanford and buried there. But there are still 34 dry casks of spent nuclear fuel on site. Originally it was expected that those would be sent to Yucca, but that was cancelled, too.

Trojan is right next to the Columbia river and it would be caught by the hypothetical tsunami. Presumably all that nuclear waste would be carried away. Upstream or downstream? Who knows?

(Hanford is east of the Cascades, and too far inland to be affected by any tsunami.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:17 AM on July 13, 2015


Celsius1414, its not just that, but droughts, fires, dying oceans, etc.

Deaths From Natural Disasters by Type, 1970-2004.

List of disasters in the United States by death toll.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:20 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I live on Beacon Hill in Seattle a few blocks east of I-5. But I am currently in Pennsylvania visiting my boyfriend. Please, tell me he knows someone at the New Yorker and just got them to run this article to convince me to move to PA, and it's all fiction. Please.

(At least my house is on bedrock...)
posted by litlnemo at 10:21 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hmmm...it looks like most of the reporting indicates that a Puget Sound tsunami would be caused by the Seattle fault rather than the subduction zone. The earthquake envisioned here might devastate the shore along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Whidbey Island, but the wave might not reach down as far as Seattle.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:24 AM on July 13, 2015


All my life it has been "just around the corner."

This is why measuring seismic events in terms of human lifespans is silly business.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:24 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.

So a person could do pretty well with some strategic real estate purchases.

Playa del Lex...Luthorville...Marina del Lex...Otisburg...
posted by MrBadExample at 10:27 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Another interesting tidbit in that "Deaths From Natural Disasters by Type" list is that there were nearly 20,000 US deaths of all types between 1970 and 2004. A projection of 13,000 deaths (even though a low-balled number) in a Cascadia event would create a huge statistical spike.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:28 AM on July 13, 2015


I grew up in Southern California and now I live in Seattle. I've been living with the specter of "the big one," since forever. In my lifetime, the Northridge quake was the big one.

All the talk about the subduction zone, tsunamis ... it's all very scary-scary glurge puffery. Yellowstone could blow up? So could Mt. Rainier, which the city of Orting knows all too well.

So, what can you do, really? The answer isn't "move" or "ignore it." The answer also is neither "hand wave" or "panic and freak out." These kinds of articles don't do nearly enough to scare and SHAME people into putting together even the most basic earthquake kit.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:29 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure how the Big One will affect Victoria and Vancouver Island. I'm guessing it might happen far out to sea and create a tsunami that wipes out, say Portland, but not us

Portland is about 120 miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean so a tsunami would not affect Portland. The wave would take about six hours to reach Portland and would probably be a barely noticeable ripple.

The danger to Portland is soil liquification in the low lands and landslides on the hills from the shaking.
posted by JackFlash at 10:30 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of the many scenarios that keeps me up at night (I do worry about whether or not my kids will survive the initial quake) is that Vancouver Island is going to be cut off from the mainland.

Vancouver Island is a big island - it's the largest island on the west coast of North America - and about 750,000 people live here. Almost all of our food is brought over by the ferry system. The main ferry terminal at Tsawwassen is really an artificial island built off of Point Roberts.

Presumably a major earthquake will destroy the ferry terminal. There's even a chance that the sandbanks to the north of the ferry terminal will collapse, causing a secondary tsunami that will wipe out YVR airport and the ferry terminal.

There won't be any ferries running between the mainland and Duke Point or Swartz Bay here on the Island for quite a long time.

And Vancouver itself is geographically isolated from the rest of Canada. At least with Oregon and Washington State, you have California to the south, which would provide a lot of support post-quake.

I can't even imagine how the rest of Canada would help coastal British Columbia in the event of a quake.
posted by Nevin at 10:30 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm always surprised people are so surprised by the probability of the Cascadia earthquake. I grew up in Oregon schools and it's something we've always talked about, and then I studied environmental science at Oregon State so it was quite well-covered there, too. None of this should be news to long-term Oregonians, and I have no idea why the New Yorker would call the Juan de Fuca a "little-known fault line". It's not "little-known" at all - I guess if you live on the East coast and don't care at all about the Northwest, sure, maybe you haven't heard of it. But everybody who's aware of Mt. Hood should already know about the Cascadia subduction zone - subduction is what built the Cascades for god's sake.

But as much as I support all preparedness & retrofitting efforts, the bottom line is that this is not a human-scale problem that we can solve by throwing money at it or getting adequately outraged. This is one of those things where honestly we just have to accept that we live on a dynamic planet that can change rapidly and does not care about our survival. We are small fragile animals living on a gigantic rock which is floating on an unstable base of molten magma - sometimes things are going to be out of our control.

All the talk about the subduction zone, tsunamis ... it's all very scary-scary glurge puffery.

This is ridiculous, though.
posted by dialetheia at 10:30 AM on July 13, 2015 [17 favorites]


Short list of things to worry about as a Pacific NW visitor:
  • Lines at the upscale ice cream place
  • Crowds at the market
  • Too many choices of locally-brewed beer and artisanally-roasted coffee
  • Complete end of life as we know it in volcanic and/or geologic catastrophe
  • They're out of the donut I wanted to try
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:32 AM on July 13, 2015 [59 favorites]


I grew up southwest of Victoria on Vancouver Island in the early 90s. Terrifying articles like this one were front-page of the local paper seemingly once a year, and earthquake drills were a routine part of school life. We regularly experienced minor quakes, but never anything rougher than a few picture frames shaken off the walls. Despite the frequent (but alarmingly non-specific) attempts of my parents to assure me that "The Big One" wasn't coming any time soon (how could they possibly know that?), and even if it did our house was sturdy (not true; it was built in the 60s and likely not nearly able to withstand anything near the magnitudes predicted for the Big One) and high enough on a hill that the wave wouldn't get us (small comfort, when the landslides and destruction of the quake itself crumble the structure to the ground) and that our town was far enough on the inside of the Strait of Juan de Fuca that we were not likely to face the sorts of destruction predicted for the outer coast (then why was it all over the newspapers all the time?!), I was (and remain) utterly and incapacitatingly terrified of earthquakes. I can't imagine anything more horrifying than the ground beneath your feet suddenly rising and rolling and lurching underneath me, everything that is supposed to be stable and solid and secure and inert becoming malleable and volatile and seemingly alive. Even the tiniest of earthquakes used to reduce me to tears of panic, and while other kids at school thought earthquake drills were hilarious and fun (we get to skip 10 minutes of math! The principal gets on the PA system and says "rumblerumblerubmle this is an earthquake rumblerumblerumblecrashrumble"! We get to shout out loud as we count to 60 and wait for aftershocks! We get to go outside and stand on the field and see our friends from other classes!), even the drills caused me to shake and tremble and have nightmares for days afterwards. I know that in many ways my fear was (and is) irrational, but at the same time I can't help but feel like at times I'm the only sane one. How can people stand living there, knowing that inevitably the very earth and sea that they love so much are going to become instruments of horrifying destruction? How are people not more scared, more on edge about this? It boggles.

I love the Northwest coast deeply, and I miss it terribly, and I feel like I'm not ever really at home anywhere else... but articles like this one are exactly the reason why - despite how much I love my home, and despite how much I miss it - I was eager to get far, far inland as soon as I was able. Toronto has a lot of issues, but the earth suddenly opening up and the sea surging in to swallow you whole is not one of them.
posted by Dorinda at 10:32 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Celsius1414, you are not convincing me at all!
posted by agregoli at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Damn! Now I have to figure out how to update my property value modeling spreadsheet to take into account increasing P(earthquake). Say what you will about the Fed, at least you get a few months warning.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:34 AM on July 13, 2015


Living in Portland having grown up around here, I always wonder where I'll be when this happens, whether I'll survive, and who I'm going to lose.

This place is so. Fucked.
posted by sacramental excrementum at 10:34 AM on July 13, 2015


Celsius1414, you are not convincing me at all!

No worries! Well, not literally no worries. ;D As a Twitter friend of mine in LA posted recently,
"Please don't move here. There's no more room and the freeways are made of fire."
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:38 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the many scenarios that keeps me up at night (I do worry about whether or not my kids will survive the initial quake) is that Vancouver Island is going to be cut off from the mainland.

From the article:

Once scientists had reconstructed the 1700 earthquake, certain previously overlooked accounts also came to seem like clues. In 1964, Chief Louis Nookmis, of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, in British Columbia, told a story, passed down through seven generations, about the eradication of Vancouver Island’s Pachena Bay people. “I think it was at nighttime that the land shook,” Nookmis recalled. According to another tribal history, “They sank at once, were all drowned; not one survived.”
posted by ryanshepard at 10:38 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Trojan is right next to the Columbia river and it would be caught by the hypothetical tsunami.

The Trojan plant is more than 40 miles upstream. Between there and the coast are lots of lowlands that would dissipate any tsunami. There would be some water level rise but probably nothing very significant. The earthquake shaking would be a much higher risk.
posted by JackFlash at 10:40 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is also the occasional hurricane [in CT].

No worries, there's a nice breakwater right off shore that helps mitigate that.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a friend once put it, The Big One would be like 'putting Seattle in a blender and hitting 'Frappe'.'

Going to celebrate living in the Frappe City by having cake for breakfast.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:45 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


And predictably, my FB feed is losing their collective minds over this.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:47 AM on July 13, 2015


> No worries, there's a nice breakwater right off shore that helps mitigate that.

Hey since Long Island lost their lawsuit with Whidby for "longest island" maybe they'll take "biggest breakwater".
posted by mrzarquon at 10:48 AM on July 13, 2015


Did some new information come out, or is this the usual "CaliforniaThe PNW sucks so bad, you should definitely never think of moving here!!!"?
posted by sideshow at 10:58 AM on July 13, 2015


this is not a human-scale problem that we can solve

It's not a problem you can "solve" (in the sense that you can prevent the earthquake). It is a problem you can work to mitigate considerably. If you can bring deaths down from, say, 13,000 to, say, 8,000 that might not look all that different in terms of how big the headlines would be the next day or the kind of rhetoric we'd use to describe the "disaster"--but it would still be 5,000 lives saved--which is worth considerable effort.
posted by yoink at 11:00 AM on July 13, 2015 [19 favorites]


There is a great book on this for those of you that want to learn more:

Cascadia's Fault: The Earthquake and Tsunami That Could Devastate North America
by Jerry Thompson and Simon Winchester

Particularly interesting with explaining how the geologists figured it out.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:01 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


It is a problem you can work to mitigate considerably.

Sure, which people have been working on continuously throughout my time in the Pacific Northwest. Building codes have improved, awareness has increased, preparedness is better. It remains too expensive and ineffective to retrofit every single building throughout the region - what other mitigation do you have in mind that isn't already being done, exactly?

Honestly, living in the Pacific Northwest despite the risk of this quake is significantly less silly than building a house in a flood or fire zone, and yet people do that all the time. We don't even prepare for completely avoidable, predictable events like that (not to mention the stuff that's our own fault, like climate change) - why would I expect anyone to do any better on something like this?
posted by dialetheia at 11:07 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


From what I can remember, Connecticut is actually supposed to be the safest in terms of natural disasters. They get the occasional blizzard, but other than that, not much.

I like Chicago's odds. Except for the well-documented street violence, drinking water comes from the largest source of fresh water on Earth, the urban heat island effect breaks up most tornadoes (the last tornado that touched down in the Loop was in 1876), blizzards are generally forecast a couple days in advance, it's the heart of the nation's railroad network if gasoline vanished and we had to go back to trains, the bulk of the housing stock is solid brick, and for a big city, housing prices are downright reasonable.
posted by hwyengr at 11:11 AM on July 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


from Totally Psyched for the Full-Rip Nine:
“They’re debating about whether they should build a $7 million bridge,” Corcoran says. “You don’t need a $7 million bridge high enough and strong enough to withstand the quake and the tsunami! You need a $1 million bridge strong enough to survive the earthquake, so people can cross it to escape the tsunami. However it’s built, it’s not going to survive the tsunami."
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:12 AM on July 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


From the article:

Once scientists had reconstructed the 1700 earthquake, certain previously overlooked accounts also came to seem like clues. In 1964, Chief Louis Nookmis, of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, in British Columbia, told a story, passed down through seven generations, about the eradication of Vancouver Island’s Pachena Bay people. “I think it was at nighttime that the land shook,” Nookmis recalled. According to another tribal history, “They sank at once, were all drowned; not one survived.”


Pacheena Bay is up the west coast of Vancouver Island from Victoria (in fact it is close to the northern terminus of the West Coast Trail), and it faces the open Pacific.

Vancouver Island's southern tip, where Victoria is located, is protected by and large by the Olympic Peninsula to the south. In the summer we regularly make the hour drive to Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. There are some great beaches there, including Botanical Beach at Port Renfrew. It's pretty spectacular, because you can see the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula across Juan de Fuca Strait, and after that the open ocean.

I would think that the First Nations (aka "American Indians" or "tribes") that live along the isolated, rugged coast of Vancouver Island are going to be in some serious trouble when the Big One hits. There are only logging roads on that side of the island and it takes at least an hour or more to reach the nearest settlement on the east side of the Island.
posted by Nevin at 11:14 AM on July 13, 2015


I grew up in Vancouver and the 'big one' has been in it's awareness for at least 20 years. It's probably not nearly enough but I know the city has gone through prepardness stuff and mapped out emergency routes. There are some buildings that were designed with earth quakes in mind.

I've done the hand action explanation many times, mostly to explain the difference between typical earth quakes in California (which is part of common knowledge) and the subduction type earthquake. You put your palms together and rub back and forth for Califoria style and hold up both hands, palms facing down and push the fingers on one hand under the fingers on the other so they start curling under. Then it's 'boing' as the curled figures snap up.
The key is a loud and sharp "booooing" and people are all wtf?

The you say and when that happens Richmond is going to sink. The ground is gonna liquify and turn into a sort of quicksand, along with most of the Fraser Delta.

Good times.
I think newer building foundations out there are actually build with concrete pylon things as part of building for earthquakes. Memory is fuzzy on whether that was just talk on what should happen or what does happen.

So basically downtown is leveled, Richmond et al is sunk, bridges likely down which is a bad thing in Vancouver. The area that I grew up in is bedrock and on the side of the mountain so you have fallen structures and trees. Lots of trees, that fall and catch fire. The saving grace there is that at least it's more hopeful to have water realtivly intact and at least you have gravity on your side for getting the water.

I learned this all in school which was over 20 years ago so I guess maybe the awareness is just better there? I remember that the inevitable big one was one of the major issues people had when the armed forces closed CFB Chilliwack. That pretty much meant the military had to travel oodles more distance and over mountains to get to the disaster zones. That was in the mid 90's so at least that long.
posted by Jalliah at 11:15 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


You need a $1 million bridge strong enough to survive the earthquake, so people can cross it to escape the tsunami. However it’s built, it’s not going to survive the tsunami."

Dude, I don't know if I'd want to be on any bridge between the earthquake and the arrival of the tsunami. Sounds like a deathtrap.

But this is good news: "To reach Portland, the tsunami would have to muscle its way up 75 miles of the Columbia River and hang a hard right at the Willamette River. Seattle is similarly protected by the topography of Puget Sound. The tsunami will likely slosh up the sides of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and ­expend its residual energy on the western shore of rural, sparsely populated Whidbey Island."
posted by Existential Dread at 11:16 AM on July 13, 2015


"Well 'the big one' will reset the Vancouver housing market...Not if but when..." (or variations) is a black humor, sarcastic comment that I've heard quite a bit when talking about Vancouver real estate.
posted by Jalliah at 11:20 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.

A. we're all gonna die
B. this will only happen once real estate values in Vancouver achieve singularity
C. we're all gonna die
posted by philip-random at 11:25 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would live in an enormous solar powered tethered zeppelin if I could but I can't really figure out what would happen when you flush the zeppelin toilet.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:34 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


The way this kind of subject brings out knee-jerk neoliberal-individualist moralizing and antisociality is really something to behold. Large-scale social disaster preparation is apparently literally invisible to many Americans at this point, even after the "heckuva job, Brownie" we did at it the last time.

The answer isn't "move" or "ignore it." The answer also is neither "hand wave" or "panic and freak out." These kinds of articles don't do nearly enough to scare and SHAME people into putting together even the most basic earthquake kit.

I keep trying to put together a prep kit that's going to work for this, but the shopping list needs updating. I even asked at the Costco customer-service desk and no one knows the right SKUs to punch in for "robust electric grid" or "water-treatment facilities."

Just tell everyone to stiffen their upper lips and rely on their wits.

America: If it can't be solved by packing a gun and a go-bag, it's an act of God and the only thing to do is pray

posted by RogerB at 11:36 AM on July 13, 2015 [27 favorites]


About ten years ago, my ex-husband and I were so charmed by our first visit to Vancouver that we semi-seriously started talking about moving there. Then we checked local housing prices. Thanks, incipient housing bubble that may not actually be a bubble but a magical eternal dome that protects Vancouver for all the people rich enough or early enough to manage living there!
posted by maudlin at 11:36 AM on July 13, 2015


The alternative is to pack up your entire life at great expense and move to another place where you may have lesser risks on a more frequent basis because there's a 1 in 10 chance in 50 years that this something bad might happen? You're more likely to die driving with a uhaul trailer behind you going out of the area!
Humans really are shitty at risk.


I am concerned about your claimed superior math skills on this one.
posted by srboisvert at 11:41 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


At least we figured out the mechanism and approximate schedule for the Cascadia subduction zone. The New Madrid fault in the midwest is still a mystery.

From http://geog.ucsb.edu/mobile/events/department-news/995/light-damage-reported-from-recent-mississippi-valley-quake/
In a report filed in November 2008, The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that a serious earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone could result in "the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States," further predicting "widespread and catastrophic" damage across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and particularly Tennessee, where a 7.7 magnitude quake or greater would cause damage to tens of thousands of structures affecting water distribution, transportation systems, and other vital infrastructure. The earthquake is expected to also result in many thousands of fatalities, with more than 4,000 of the fatalities expected in Memphis alone.
Also, an excellent and timely field trip report from Idlewords/Maciej Ceglowski: Confronting New Madrid
posted by jjwiseman at 11:43 AM on July 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


RogerB, I take it you've never seen Emergency Essentials. Based in Utah, of course, because the Mormons generally believe that the world is soon going to come to a big end.
posted by Melismata at 11:45 AM on July 13, 2015


hwyengr: "I like Chicago's odds."

I'm not sure Chicago's heat waves would be that great in a non-air conditioned, post-climate change environment.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:47 AM on July 13, 2015


"Well 'the big one' will reset the Vancouver housing market...Not if but when..." (or variations) is a black humor, sarcastic comment that I've heard quite a bit when talking about Vancouver real estate.

Marge: That house is on fire!
Lionel Hutz: "Motivated seller."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:49 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pffft Chicago is boss. Violence is going down too, despite huge headlines. And we've got the lake to jump in for heat waves. I'll stay put here!
posted by agregoli at 11:55 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


So I'm moving to Portland next month... From San Jose. At least I'm consistent in my natural disasters.
posted by m@f at 11:56 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


But as much as I support all preparedness & retrofitting efforts, the bottom line is that this is not a human-scale problem that we can solve by throwing money at it or getting adequately outraged.

While we can't solve the problem, we could mitigate it substantially, if we just gave a damn. One of the things that both amazed and impressed me re the 2011 Tohoku earthquake was just how well Japan's preparation worked. Seeing the almost instant broadcast warnings that tsunamis were incoming and the video feeds of people moving to high ground was just so inspiring, for want of a better word. People knew what they had to do, they'd practiced for it, and they did it. We have nothing even approaching this level of preparedness in this country.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:03 PM on July 13, 2015 [25 favorites]


OK, so the Metafilter servers are where, exactly?
posted by pjern at 12:17 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


for a modest annual fee they can live on the party zeppelin
posted by poffin boffin at 12:18 PM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


OK, so the Metafilter servers are where, exactly?

In the sub-basement of what was once an industrial park.
posted by Melismata at 12:19 PM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


We have nothing even approaching this level of preparedness in this country.

One half would believe it's a government conspiracy to bring in the black helicopters, and the other half would believe it's just more religious end-times idiocy from the first half.
posted by aramaic at 12:26 PM on July 13, 2015


While we realize that it is merely our democracy's inability to plan beyond the next election cycle and a stubborn aversion to local tax increases.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:47 PM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


OK, so the Metafilter servers are where, exactly?

Right above the Paphnuty cages.
posted by maxsparber at 12:47 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm scheduled to spend a weekend this fall in a quirky little motel on the Oregon coast. The good news is that that is the hilly part of the coast, so checking the evacuation maps, there's a building on a high point about 500 feet away out of even the Cascadia tsunami zone. So if the cliff the motel is on doesn't decide to slide into the sea, and if I'm not killed or crippled or trapped by it collapsing, and I can make it across 101 without panicked drivers running me over, it's probably close enough even for my fat nearly-fifty ass to make it to.

Of course, the bad news is that the only ways out of that patch of that land go across almost certain to be collapsed or swept away bridges or unnamed backwoods roads where even if I have my car I am likely to enact the James Kim story, except without the kids. So if the big one happens in the first week of November and you don't hear from me, I'm probably picking through the rubble of a UPS center, hoping someone was sending care packages to their kids in their first semester of college.
posted by tavella at 12:55 PM on July 13, 2015




Cool Papa Bell: "So could Mt. Rainier, which the city of Orting knows all too well."

That's where I live!*

When we went to the Pompeii exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, Orting was specifically called out as the town most likely to experience a Pompeii-style event. On the upside though, we've got these amazingly rich volcanic soils. I have literally five feet of topsoil.

*Well, outside of city limits, but that's what it says on my mail.
posted by stet at 1:00 PM on July 13, 2015


Where are the liquification zones in Seattle?

Here you go. Spoiler alert: Stay far, far away from Interbay, Sodo, and Harbor Island.
posted by dw at 1:02 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can we talk about the 43 people that were tragically killed in the 2014 Oso mudslide?
posted by stet at 1:08 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Really great research and writing - I knew I liked the author when I read, For a moment, that was pretty cool: a real-time revolution in earthquake science. Almost immediately, though, it became extremely uncool...

And yeah, hard to even respond to the scale of devastation we're looking forward to. I also live on a couple fault lines and I'm forever horrified that we have no unified plan, no earthquake drills.
posted by latkes at 1:10 PM on July 13, 2015


It's also an interesting comparison of relative risk, too. I live in San Jose, but I'm not overly concerned about the Big One here. The local faults can produce large and nasty earthquakes, but they are strike-slip faults, they don't produce the apocalyptic 9 level earthquakes that subduction faults do. I'd avoid living in a brick building, but as it happens I live in a 1903 wood-frame Victorian that has withstood several large quakes without significant damage. I keep an earthquake kit in my car, and a larger 5-gallon one in my house, along with a tarp and a sleeping bag and a evac kit for my cat. Even if the roads are too damaged to self-evacuate, I have plenty of supplies to sit out the three days to a week I can expect it to take for relief efforts to get set up in my area.

There's more preparations I could take -- I should see about stashing a larger water supply in the back yard, in case the house is too damaged to enter. And of course, I could be one of the unlucky ones who happens to be next to a brick wall or on a road that collapses, but that risk level is closer to the struck-by-lightning scale. I still cringe a little every time a red light traps me under an overpass, silently saying "don't let it be *now*", but overall it is a manageable, reasonable risk.

Being in an area where thousands of people will simply die with no option for escape, that's quite a different thing.
posted by tavella at 1:12 PM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


So this article really blows out of proportion what Cascadia means to Seattle and Portland. It talks like both cities will be destroyed by this immense quake and tsunami. And it really, really depends on the where and how. The big thing, though, is Portland has a 0% chance of getting wiped out by a tsunami, and while Seattle may face a tsunami, it's going to be pretty mild compared to not just the catastrophe the coast will face -- and it's going to be mild compared to the 15 foot wave that a Seattle Fault quake will generate when it dumps Harbor Island into the sound.

If the quake hits off Cannon Beach, Seattle will be as far from the epicenter as Tokyo was from Tohoku. And while Tohoku did some damage in Tokyo, it was a pretty straightforward quake for Tokyo, and the city handled it fine.

If the quake ruptures off the Washington coast, it could be different. But no matter what, Seattle will be at least 150 miles from a potential epicenter. Portland is not quite as inland, but the Cascades will provide a similar level of insulation.

Honestly, Seattle's bigger problems are a Rainier eruption or a Seattle fault rupture.

However... I've known about this possible quake for years, and I won't go vacationing on the Oregon or Washington Coast anymore. Cannon Beach, for example, the "evacuation plan" is "get to the other side of US 101 ASAP." If you're at the beach, it's a 20 minute walk to get to 101... assuming the roads aren't blocked and you can walk there without the panic and you're not toting kids/disabled/elderly.

The tsunami could arrive in 15 minutes. Or 10. And if it's a 40+ feet wave... 101 might not be far enough. Your best chance at survival is to start running the moment the shaking starts.

Seaside, Astoria, Newport, Long Beach, Hoquiam/Aberdeen... tens of thousands of people facing a 40-60 foot wave and very little time to run.

I'll take Seattle's shaking, thanks very much.
posted by dw at 1:20 PM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


how's the infrastructure of Portland and Seattle going to hold up, though? Japan thought of itself as earthquake prone, yeah? How does that apply in terms of the 2005 quake affecting/not affecting Tokyo?

In my time in Portland at PSU, I do not remember "the big one" being talked about, aside from California sliding into the sea. I mean, I was a fucking English major, so what did I know, but I remember when we did have a small quake during the three years I was there or so it the response was *yeah that was weird well it's worse in California, la la la*.

There's a lot of damn bridges in Portland. There's a dam. Then there's everything west of I-5, which, unless it's changed since my time there, is sort of dots of people who are not really hooked into a communal disaster preparation plan. There's the Trojan plant, as somebody noted above. And there are those two big-ass rivers. Would there not be some flooding action if there is a major quake from the rivers?

A relative is about to move into a 1906 house in Portland, in NE where I understand there are a lot of old houses, and I mean what are the chances that the thing is earthquake proof. I have become one of those relatives by sending this article to him and saying BUY EARTHQUAKE INSURANCE NOW
posted by angrycat at 1:43 PM on July 13, 2015


It didn't really hit me how unprepared Americans are until my wife moved here from Japan and started asking me questions.

She was shocked that we don't have designated earthquake shelters, stocked with food and water for days for the appropriate number of people. That we don't have a tsunami warning system in place already (at least we are developing one). That drills are infrequent and poorly attended/observed. Etc.

And also just by the general attitude --- shown in Katrina --- that preparedness is an _individual_ activity primarily. While our home is reasonably well prepared, she is worried about what would happen if we were not at home and got stuck somewhere --- and it's a good point, one that I had basically ignored away.

Of course, Japan has many more frequent and serious earthquakes, and we may get lucky here. But a similar event to the 2011 tsunami in Japan would probably be much worse here (Fukushima reactor issues aside).
posted by thefoxgod at 1:57 PM on July 13, 2015 [17 favorites]


Sigh. So far on Facebook today I've seen two very intelligent friends get surprisingly stupid about this article. One woman's a geography nerd who's mad that the story made it sound like Seattle's going to be totally underwater when the big one hits, instead of just mostly underwater and super fucked by liquefaction of most of the non-hill areas. And the other woman is a new mom who gets weirdly angry now when people bring up issues that have no easy solution -- where before she'd probably have reacted along the lines of "oh crap that sounds horrible but there's nowhere to live in this country that doesn't get fucked by natural disaster somehow", now she's like enraged at the author for the "fear-mongering", all "fuck them for printing this". I have no idea what to do with that.
posted by palomar at 1:58 PM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


Palomar, I've encountered that attitude a lot, and it's disturbing. "Don't scare me with probable future calamity" is the kind of WTF angey denial I also don't have any idea how to tackle.
posted by agregoli at 2:00 PM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Just going to leave this here: Earthquake Safety Checklist (FEMA B-526)
posted by gern at 2:15 PM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Seaside, Astoria, Newport...

In Newport, next to the Rogue Brewery, there's a sign that says both, "You will likely have less than five minutes warning," and "the safe zone is a six minute walk uphill."

They're apparently counting on people reading the sign before the tsunami.

I'm thinking they should make the sign bigger.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:21 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]




dw: "If the quake hits off Cannon Beach, Seattle will be as far from the epicenter as Tokyo was from Tohoku. And while Tohoku did some damage in Tokyo, it was a pretty straightforward quake for Tokyo, and the city handled it fine."

I am not sure it works that way with a full subduction zone rupture. My understanding is that if it did rupture the whole length, it's more about how far you are from the zone, not so much the "epicenter," where it's gonna start. I could be wrong, but I think if the whole thing goes and you live within 100 miles of the zone, you're gonna have a bad time.
posted by twjordan at 2:43 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am wondering if this is why North America didn't seem to have any civilizations on the scale of Europe, Asia, Central America, etc. Like maybe the whole continent isn't geologically stable enough to support large scale habitation on a long term basis.

Guns, Germs, Steel, and Stable Geology?
posted by chrchr at 2:47 PM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Talez: "Everywhere in this world there is something that will kill you and destroy all of your worldly possessions. Move to the mountains it'll be mudslides. Move to the midwest and it'll be a tornado."

I mean to be fair, tornadoes generally just destroy a few people's worldly possessions -- sometimes an entire small town -- and leave everyone else alone. And though Illinois has had three REALLY BAD tornado seasons running with significant tornadoes in populated areas that wiped out whole neighborhoods, we have fewer than 10 deaths across all three seasons. As natural disasters go, tornadoes are not that deadly. You get 24 hours warning that the storms are tornado-capable, you get usually 20 minutes warning that they're in your specific area, and often 2 to 5 solid minutes to run to the basement when the actual tornado touches down. They don't cut large areas off from help or rescue by conventional municipal emergency services (although the national guard typically has to come help with the cleanup and the larger-scale tornadoes, just because of scale). And with cell phones EMA my damn cell phone now goes berserk in my pocket or right next to my head, based on its location, when there's an immediate tornado warning.

(Now hopefully I didn't jinx myself because we have tornado storms on the way tonight. Please leave my house alone, tornado gods. Take my garage as an offering.)

hwyengr: "the last tornado that touched down in the Loop was in 1876"

But every now and then a microburst (essentially a tornado that fails to come all the way down from the clouds) pops out a few upper-level windows! GO INDOORS, CITIZENS.

Chrysostom: "I'm not sure Chicago's heat waves would be that great in a non-air conditioned, post-climate change environment."

Come downstate, we have a lot more greenspace to offset the urban heat islands, excellent and abundant water, and deer and turkey hunting for meat. Our rivers were carved by glacial innundations so they mostly all have really deep channels that can handle a lot of rise or fall in river depth without significantly flooding the prairie top. The soil is excellent. I have even picked out where I am going to buy my Apocalypse Farmstead Land.

Anyway, Portland and Seattle, this is why I'm afraid to ever visit you again. But don't worry, I've been not visiting California out of earthquake terror for much longer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:49 PM on July 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


chrchr: "I am wondering if this is why North America didn't seem to have any civilizations on the scale of Europe, Asia, Central America, etc. Like maybe the whole continent isn't geologically stable enough to support large scale habitation on a long term basis."

O hai it's the year 1200 AD and i'm bigger than london:
"At the high point of its development, Cahokia was the largest urban center north of the great Mesoamerican cities in Mexico and Central America. Although it was home to only about 1,000 people before c. 1050, its population grew explosively after that date. Archaeologists estimate the city's population at between 6,000 and 40,000 at its peak, with more people living in outlying farming villages that supplied the main urban center.
I mean really just mostly the smallpox, I think.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:53 PM on July 13, 2015 [25 favorites]


And the other woman is a new mom who gets weirdly angry now when people bring up issues that have no easy solution -- where before she'd probably have reacted along the lines of "oh crap that sounds horrible but there's nowhere to live in this country that doesn't get fucked by natural disaster somehow", now she's like enraged at the author for the "fear-mongering", all "fuck them for printing this". I have no idea what to do with that.

I suspect the answer you're looking for is in the first sentence there. From my understanding, having a child can profoundly shift how one feels about dangerous situations. It becomes impossible not to insert one's child into the imagining of any awful happenstance (no matter how probable or improbable) that happens across TV or social media. Drive-bys. Car accidents. Avalanches. Earthquakes. Terrorists. Drowning. Animal attack. Nuclear attack. Alien saucers in a Sci-Fi movie vaporizing a town, including all the children.

Her description of "fear mongering" is likely entirely accurate for her at the moment -- this story is literally mongering fear within her.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:06 PM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I suspect the answer you're looking for is in the first sentence there.

Actually not looking for any answers there at all, already had that sussed out, but thanks!
posted by palomar at 3:21 PM on July 13, 2015


hwyengr, as a personal survivor, don't ever f'ing live in CT.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 3:26 PM on July 13, 2015


Actually not looking for any answers there at all, already had that sussed out, but thanks!

Ah, sorry. I was confused by "I have no idea what to do with that." :) Carry on!
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:30 PM on July 13, 2015


And now, the Local Seattle Reaction to the New Yorker Megathrust Earthquake 'Put Seattle in a blender and hit 'Frappe'!' doom event that we face in the distant - or near - future:

Megathrust Quake - we love doing this too!.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:33 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I heard that all those new condos that went up in Vancouver can barely survive a 7.0. I'm not sure if that is correct, mind.

A relative is about to move into a 1906 house in Portland, in NE where I understand there are a lot of old houses, and I mean what are the chances that the thing is earthquake proof. I have become one of those relatives by sending this article to him and saying BUY EARTHQUAKE INSURANCE NOW


Does it have seismic retrofitting?
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:00 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Global warming related sea level rise will be especially strong off the cost of Connecticut and Long Island. This will create a substantial risk of to the sewage treatment lagoons for coastal communities and Hartford. A significant winter storm or hurricane could bring a high tide, inundating the lagoons and triggering a kind of shit tsunami.
posted by humanfont at 4:15 PM on July 13, 2015


Vancouver Magazine:

“All those apartment buildings along the water — I wouldn’t buy a condo in one of those. I wouldn’t even rent one,” says Peter Yanev, an engineer from California who has personally surveyed the aftermath of 45 earthquakes around the globe and co-founded one of the world’s largest earthquake risk engineering firms, San Francisco-based EQE International. In the tight-lipped, buttoned-down world of earthquake consultants, Yanev is something of an iconoclast. Over the years, he’s developed a reputation for speaking out about cozy relationships between developers and engineers, and for censuring suspect buildings, from trendy offices in Silicon Valley to high-end towers in Chile and new developments in Seattle.

Among Yanev’s greatest concerns in Vancouver are new residential high-rises: “pop-up” towers with catchy names and chic sales offices. “You had this huge infusion of Asian money a few years ago. They couldn’t care less about earthquakes,” he says. “The pressure is to keep the cost down.” He points out that much of the damage in the 2010 Chile quake, which claimed more than 500 lives and destroyed nearly 400,000 buildings, was suffered by newer high-rises. To reduce costs, engineers had designed buildings with fewer, thinner shear walls — the internal concrete bracing that resists shaking. Many new high-rises in Vancouver and across North America are built to similar standards. “Vancouver has never suffered a major earthquake, and that’s unfortunate because the level of concern is not there,” Yanev says. “I have a feeling that after the next big earthquake, when we have a couple of high-rises come down, we’re going to finally adopt higher standards.” Even if the city’s high-rises do manage to ride out the shaking, broken glass and falling debris constitute a major hazard, raining down with lethal force on the streets below.

posted by sebastienbailard at 4:22 PM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Regarding Chicago, we are somewhat close to the New Madrid Fault...
posted by qcubed at 4:28 PM on July 13, 2015


Since it keeps coming up, here is the source for claims of Connecticut being the safest place in the US. Specifically, Storrs Connecticut. It's 50 miles inland.
posted by smokysunday at 4:32 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but then you're in Storrs, CT. I lived there for a while, back in the '90's. Hated it. Fled when I got the chance to.

I'll take Seattle.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:41 PM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


All y'all are gonna regret having kept Walmart out when this finally happens. They are the best at disaster relief -- their trucks often get there before FEMA does.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:55 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


All y'all are gonna regret having kept Walmart out when this finally happens.

Speaking for my fellow Portlanders, we'd rather just go hungry and thirsty, thanks.

(Anyway, we do have a Wal-Mart on 82nd, not that I've ever been there or anything).
posted by chrchr at 5:04 PM on July 13, 2015


Oh, I was talking about Seattle. I grew up in the Seattle area and keeping Walmart out is a local point of pride there. I'd never even been inside one before I moved to Las Vegas! But now that I live in the rural South, I've become a huge Walmart fan.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:08 PM on July 13, 2015


I made my Mom go to Walmart with me once when she visited and at first she was all distressed over breaking her lifetime streak of never being inside a Walmart but by the end of it even she had to acknowledge, "Wow, it really is convenient that all this stuff is available in one place!"
posted by Jacqueline at 5:10 PM on July 13, 2015


Of course I'm not sure where y'all would put a Walmart even if you wanted one... maybe if Amazon goes bust before completing their expansion then Walmart could get a good deal on one of their blocks?
posted by Jacqueline at 5:15 PM on July 13, 2015


"Wow, it really is convenient that all this stuff is available in one place!"

Survivalism efficiency and economic base ARE NOT THE SAME THING



Good luck non-anti-fragile places
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:48 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was in Crescent City a month ago and I could easily see how the 1964 tsunami took it out. It's all very flat, and even a small tsunami would go far inland.
posted by persona au gratin at 5:51 PM on July 13, 2015


Eyebrows, as an Illinoisian myself, I'd be far more terrified of downstate tornadoes than CA earthquakes.

I live in LA now and feel better about nature destroying me than I did back in the Midwest.
posted by persona au gratin at 5:54 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ugh, this whole earthquake-tsunami-everyone dies thing is such a downer. Can we reframe it in such a way as to make hoarding guns and food a viable solution?
posted by um at 6:15 PM on July 13, 2015


Sure: Do it in, like, Montana. Or Saskatchewan.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:36 PM on July 13, 2015


In Newport, next to the Rogue Brewery, there's a sign that says both, "You will likely have less than five minutes warning," and "the safe zone is a six minute walk uphill."

I love the Oregon coast, and I drove down it not too long ago. I remember seeing the not very large evacuation route signs. Some routes looked like they'd be a 10-15 minute drive to high ground, especially around places like Tillamook. Not good. In the 2011 Japanese tsunami areas like that were inundated.

I also remember thinking I should enjoy it all to the max now, because after "the big one" the coast will never the way it was, not in my lifetime at least.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 6:47 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really don't understand the fear of tornadoes that people have. Decades ago, sure, given that they pretty much struck without warning. But today? You've got time to get to a safe spot, the vast majority of them won't kill you even if you are in a poorly constructed building, and you can fairly easily run away if need be.

And the aftermath is nothing like a major earthquake or even a hurricane. The damage is localized, so help is invariably quick to arrive, even when there are massive tornado outbreaks. In the worst case, you can walk out of the damage zone. There is no case where you will be stranded without help for a week or more with no feasible way to get yourself out of the zone of destruction unless you are seriously injured or already disabled. There is no hundred miles wide zone of devastation.

Yeah, a huge F5 that strips foundations bare is scary, but even those monsters have a path of maximum damage (that is to say, the area that is wiped clean) that is maybe a city block wide at most and those, again, can be survived if you have a basement or a tornado shelter. Or if your neighbor has one. And typically, storms like that are precisely the ones with the longest warning lead time. It's rinky dink F0s that strip off shingles and knock down tree limbs that come out of nowhere.

And, having lived in Tornado Alley for over 30 years, I have never once seen a tornado. I've never even heard a tornado. For all the damage they do, it is confined to a small area and with modern warning systems, kill remarkably few people.
posted by wierdo at 6:52 PM on July 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Because no matter how relatively safe you are in tornado alley, tornado weather is scary. It's high winds, sheets of rain, and a sky turned some evil color, the day twilight dark. Those are conditions that awaken the fear of the old gods.
posted by wotsac at 7:11 PM on July 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have lived through earthquakes in Japan, and a relatively small tornado. The earthquakes were pretty damn scary. The tornado blew the roof off a shed and flung a truck into a rice field. I'd hate to see a real one.
posted by Nevin at 7:55 PM on July 13, 2015


Arizona has packs of feral chihuahuas, or at least they used to. It's not a safe place.
posted by Anne Neville at 8:05 PM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


In Newport, next to the Rogue Brewery, there's a sign that says both, "You will likely have less than five minutes warning," and "the safe zone is a six minute walk uphill."

That seems okay since that makes it about a 2 minute run.
posted by Justinian at 8:14 PM on July 13, 2015


I really don't understand the fear of tornadoes that people have. Decades ago, sure, given that they pretty much struck without warning. But today? You've got time to get to a safe spot, the vast majority of them won't kill you even if you are in a poorly constructed building, and you can fairly easily run away if need be.

Mine comes from cycling on a highway in open country about 30 miles from anything on a fine hot summer day when a trucker pulled over to let my friend and I know there was a tornado warning and then drove off.

We rode 25 miles flat out in 85 degree weather before we collapsed in a field and the cloud line rode over us. If there had been a tornado we might have ended up somewhere other than that particular Kansas and there was nothing we could do about it.

(It would have been nice if the trucker had helped us out a bit more but at least his warning gave us a shot)
posted by srboisvert at 8:33 PM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not worried about an earthquake destroying my house. It's a one-floor stucco dwelling with no basement. The worst would be losing power and water for a while. That's no big deal; I've got stuff stockpiled. You know the last time I was without power for an extended time? In the Midwest after severe weather.

A tornado destroying my house in rural Illinois is much more likely than a quake destroying my house in LA. Though neither is likely.
posted by persona au gratin at 8:47 PM on July 13, 2015


Huh, I love sheets of rain and high but not severely damaging winds. The smell of ozone and petrichor is delightful. So is the almost cold wind that comes along with a good thunderstorm on a hot day.

Mid country earthquakes are also not bothersome. A bit of rattling and the strange sound of the earth groaning isn't the stuff of nightmares. The ground visibly rolling and feeling like you're on an ocean liner in the middle of a hurricane, on the other hand... In some ways the small ones are almost a relief. They serve to indicate that the earth is relieving its stress in small bits rather than letting it build to the point that a large portion of a continent will rebound a hundred feet in a few seconds.

My problem with them is the same one I have with hurricanes. Devastation widespread enough to isolate not only entire communities, but whole regions, scares the shit out of me. Too much of a reminder of the dreams of the aftermath of nuclear holocaust I had as a child, I suppose.
posted by wierdo at 8:48 PM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was going to say that the PNW is indeed being affected by climate change. Much of the interior of British Columbia Columbia - an area the size of western Europe - has been profoundly changed over the past twenty years because of climate change. Warmer winters have meant that mountain pine beetle has basically been able to destroy vast stands of pine forests. This changes everything about the ecology for a vast area.

You might think that "our farms are still producing" but this year Washington State is experiencing an extreme drought that is affecting agricultural production. I would wager that Washington and Oregon, just like British Columbia, must get their food from elsewhere anyway. Local climatic conditions don't exactly matter.
posted by Nevin at 8:57 PM on July 13, 2015


In Texas I got stuck multiple times in rush hour, completely blind, unable to pull off, unable to see other cars, in the hail-wrap around a tornado (tip: they're pretty much ALWAYS hail-wrapped). There is nowhere to go. You cannot "run away", as you are even more likely to get brained by hail, hit by a car, or misadventure into a ditch or light post than you are to be hurt or killed by the tornado. The first time I didn't have anything within reach in my car to cover my head with in case the hail or debris came through the glass.

I have also been stuck several times in office environments that had nowhere but the bathrooms to shelter in place. Like, a 3-staller to hold 25 people, but it was the only place to get away from glass.

I've also hunkered down in my own house, listening to the wind trying to take the roof off, trying to figure out how I would get three dogs out of a destroyed house without someone getting cut to shreds or fear-bitten to death, and where the fuck we would go for the six months it would take to turn around the insurance claim and getting a contractor to do repairs.

I don't think there was a single year of the final decade I was in Texas that there wasn't some kind of serious weather-related situation that scared the shit out of me. In 5 years in Southern California there was that thing that took out all the power in San Diego County for 8 hours (stuck in traffic for 3, and that sucked, but at least I could see), and I smelled a fire once. I've never felt an earthquake (my friends/family in Texas get 3s several times a year, thanks to fracking, and my parents in East Texas have had two week-plus power outages: Hurricanes Rita and Ike). There is a risk of a bad El Nino this winter, but apparently most of the flooding will be in the northern part of the state. I gladly pay the sunshine tax out here, where weather is no longer a routine and significant contributor to my stress levels.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:57 PM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


This article made me realise I have a much bigger problem. I had trouble lining up my middle fingers to do the plates moving demo because my shoulders didn't want to let my elbows that high. I don't have time for the end of the world, I need to make another physiotherapy appointment!

If you need a visual, the Seattle Earthquake episode of "It could happen tomorrow!" totally traumatised me when I watched it from a highrise SF hotel the night before I took the train to Seattle.
posted by kitten magic at 9:08 PM on July 13, 2015


The Navajo liason to the school district where I worked described that his family was driven out of the Northwest territories around 650 years ago by a volcanic eruption so severe there was nothing to hunt. They didn't want to fight for territory, so they went along the Rockies, until settling in Kayenta, Arizona. He went back up to find relatives in the territories. The implication was the ash came from the west. These events are huge and go a long way, altering habitat. Where I am sitting, used to be under hundreds of feet of water.

My mom who was a geologist, and studied this area, said about 600 years ago a quake raised the valley floor upward three feet, in one epic surge. Looking at this mountain front you can see where rock, hundred feet thick, just folded back on its self. This is an amazing world. Regarding the PNW, the Native Americans survived some catastrophies, and lived to tell about it.
posted by Oyéah at 9:20 PM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Devastation widespread enough to isolate not only entire communities, but whole regions, scares the shit out of me.

Again: Walmart totes has this covered. They've got a corporate emergency operations center that is normally staffed 24/7 anyway (for shit like fires at stores and whatnot) but when a major disaster starts going down all their department heads converge there so that they have all the decisionmakers in one room. During major disasters, the only question Walmart really asks themselves is how MANY millions of dollars of aid do they throw at it?

It's not 100% altruism -- I'm sure at least 50% of it is just for the good PR / marketing at their target demographic (the people too poor to have the resources to either leave before predicable disasters hit and/or ride it out with their own stockpiled supplies) -- but Walmart has been pretty srs bsns about charitable disaster response for at least a decade now and they are far more competent at it than the government because they do logistics on the multi-billion-dollar national-level scale 24/7 year-round and not just when bad shit happens.

If you're ever in an area of the US affected by a major disaster, one of the most beautiful sights you will ever see in your life is a convoy of Walmart trucks approaching on the highway.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:53 PM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]




[Let's let the Walmart thing rest here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:33 PM on July 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "O hai it's the year 1200 AD and i'm bigger than london"

Tenochtitlan had between 200,000 and 300,000 inhabitants when Cortes arrived in 1519, and might have been the largest city in the world at that time. It was the capital of an empire of possibly as many as 5 million people.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:55 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yep. No geological activity near the Aztec heartland.

I don't think my theory that North American geology stalled the development of civilization is a good one. Withdrawn.
posted by chrchr at 12:05 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Part of me finds this as justification for just moving to Christchurch. Still hundreds of quakes a year, but it appears the major disruptive force of them have been released for a while.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:27 AM on July 14

Nope. That wasn't the big one. The big one will from the Alpine Fault. I would link to articles but the Geonet and GNS science websites have stopped working for me.

But looking on the bright side - most of the buildings that would fall down in the big one already have so things should be safer.
You should move there though as Christchurch is an awesome city to live in.

I would be quite happy to live the rest of my life without experiencing another earthquake and I wasn't even in Christchurch for the February 2011 one. Just the September 2010 one and all the aftershocks.
posted by poxandplague at 3:39 AM on July 14, 2015


I grew up with tsunami and earthquake drills in school, and in a place where you could see the marks from previous eruptions and tsunamis in the landscape. A fairly high percentage of the residents in the the northwest didn't grow up here, though, and even people who grew up here didn't necessarily learn much about the geology and natural processes that formed the landscape.

But as much as I support all preparedness & retrofitting efforts, the bottom line is that this is not a human-scale problem that we can solve by throwing money at it or getting adequately outraged. This is one of those things where honestly we just have to accept that we live on a dynamic planet that can change rapidly and does not care about our survival.

There is definitely a middle ground, which would involve not concentrating development in particularly risky zones, and in making land use and landscape restoration decisions that build resilience and increased capacity to handle these predictable events, rather than the reverse.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:43 AM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Her description of "fear mongering" is likely entirely accurate for her at the moment -- this story is literally mongering fear within her.
posted by Celsius1414


And that's what's so freaking disturbing about human behavior...that having a child you want to protect means you want to know LESS about dangerous things or be less proactive in fending them off. It's an attitude that always shocks me.
posted by agregoli at 5:52 AM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


When reading this yesterday, as an Albertan, I was thinking about what would need to be in place to re-home British Columbian earthquake/tsumani refugees as our coast line completely changes, and the lower mainland and the island become reduced to "toast". (If the scenario in the article and conservative liquefaction zones are correct, that is.) The immediate effect would be huge - the social and economic impact and work to restore order and stability would actually much bigger.
posted by Kurichina at 8:17 AM on July 14, 2015


There has been at least one attack by a pack of Chihuahuas in Salem, Oregon as well. I-5 runs through Salem, so at least part of Salem is threatened by BOTH packs of Chihuahuas AND big earthquakes. If you live there, you should probably just run.
posted by Anne Neville at 8:29 AM on July 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


Maybe Connecticut would be a good place for the hoarded guns and food?
posted by Anne Neville at 10:48 AM on July 14, 2015


FYI for anyone still following this thread, there is a Reddit AMA going on now: "We are earthquake experts. Ask us anything about The Really Big One coming for the Pacific Northwest." (Featuring, among others, Professor John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network - for those who wanted the PNSN perspective - as well as someone in emergency management and another person I don't know much about, who both appear to know a lot about infrastructure and local quake-related plans and stuff.)
posted by mandanza at 11:37 AM on July 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


The book Full-Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest by Sandi Doughton gives much more details on this, including a lot more on of the science detective work it took to discover the historical earthquakes and tsunamis. Highly recommended. (Sandi Doughton is one of the people answering questions in the above Reddit AMA).
posted by ShooBoo at 11:53 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the AMA:

zambabo 13 points an hour ago
Will this finally end the great hipster epidemic that's plagued the Northwest for close to a decade?

NorthwestBigQuake[S] 55 points an hour ago
No, there is no hope of ending that. - John

posted by dw at 1:20 PM on July 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


ShooBoo: "Full-Rip 9.0"

So, I take it geologists are also big on surfing?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:41 PM on July 14, 2015


I don't see why; it's kind of pointless.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:24 PM on July 14, 2015


So, I take it geologists are also big on surfing?

No, the "rip" is the sound the subduction zone is supposed to make when it ruptures, like a zipper opening up.
posted by Nevin at 9:44 PM on July 14, 2015


Nono, you surf the earthquake with a skateboard!
posted by wierdo at 6:39 PM on July 15, 2015


> an old 1906 house

Wood houses are the best. I'm in a 1900 house, had it bolted to the foundation, bolted the bookcases to the wall. Those are the essential fixes, not too difficult.

This article has a lot of good stuff but it really hypes up the tsunami risk -- nearly every sizable city is not only at least 90 miles inland, but has a mountain range between it and the ocean (either the Olumpics in Washington or the Coast Range in Oregon).

Beach towns will be obliterated, which is bad but very few live there, unlike California (with San Francisco, LA, Monterey, Santa Barbara, LA and San Diego). If you're at the beach, be away of the nearest hill 40 feet high or more.

For Portland, you can get fine detail on earthquake (liquefaction) and landslide risk by going to the tremendous website www.portlandmaps.com and entering an address. Also crime, wildlands fire risk, floods, etc. AND all the permitted repairs on your house, and sewer line maps, etc.
posted by msalt at 1:11 AM on July 16, 2015


UW meteorologist Cliff Mass says the current Pacific Northwest heat wave is not caused by global warming, and that global warming might even make this type of heat wave in this region less likely in the future.
As I mentioned in some of my previous blogs, any reasonable analysis suggests the warmth is predominantly the result of natural variability. That is, not being caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. I know some folks are not happy with me saying this, and some media/advocacy groups are pushing other things, but I think the facts are clear. Let's talk about it.

Here is a thought to keep in mind: the more extreme the weather anomaly, the less likely it is to be caused by human-induced (anthropogenic) global warming. The current situation is mega extreme in terms of our temperatures. The reason this aphorism makes sense is that global warming due to increased greenhouse gases should warm the earth in a progressive, slow way---not in huge jumps. Here in the Northwest, temperature increases have been particularly slow (about 1F over the past century) because of the huge thermal inertia of the Pacific Ocean.

And there is something else: the warming influencing our region is localized and does not have the characteristics of the global warming signal seen in climate models. While the Northwest has been hot and dry, much of the eastern U.S. has been much cooler and wetter than normal. Even the Rockies have been wetter than normal. Global warming would warm them as well.
He also wrote a little while ago about how climate change will affect the Pacific Northwest.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:42 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love Cliff Mass, I really do. He's an incredible resource on the weather of the Pacific Northwest. But he's a meteorologist, not a climate scientist, so it's also worth pointing out that meteorologists analyze the atmosphere at a very fine temporal scale. Many, many meteorologists are sort of weird about climate issues, and they're the atmospheric scientists who are most likely to deny climate change - simply because the fine temporal scale of their analysis is not right for seeing those trends clearly. I've been reading Cliff Mass for a long time and climate change is very pointedly not his wheelhouse - though I'm by no means trying to say he's a climate denier at all! He's fine, just maybe less nuanced on climate issues than I might like sometimes.

This sentence in particular might make sense to a meteorologist but as a scientist who works a lot with climate trends and analysis, I think it would give a climate scientist the howling fantods: "Here is a thought to keep in mind: the more extreme the weather anomaly, the less likely it is to be caused by human-induced (anthropogenic) global warming." This is so oversimplified as to be completely misleading. I take his point that he thinks climate will change in a progressive slow way from a meteorological point of view, and I can see a narrow argument that highly variable events are likely 'noisier' than more average behavior. But that isn't necessarily in line with what we actually expect everywhere; in a lot of places, it's climate stability that will be hurt the most by a changing climate, and we expect wider variability and greater extremes as a result, so his argument is not nearly carefully phrased enough. His assertion that the entire US would be uniformly warmer if this were due to climate change is also basically absurd. There is nothing about climate change that leads us to believe it will be applied evenly across the US or anything like that; it's a highly spatially variable process, and in ways that we are very bad at predicting because weather systems are so spatially unpredictable. That's also the reason why it isn't necessarily quite as telling as he thinks it is that this localized warming doesn't match what we'd expect based on broad-scale global circulation models.

Anyway, I really do love Cliff Mass and he's frequently very insightful, but I would take his climate arguments with a grain of salt. I'd say the same for his hydrology posts, too - there was a post on snowpack and water availability recently that made me facepalm pretty hard in a couple of places.
posted by dialetheia at 12:20 PM on July 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Besides, he has a much better argument for the recent warming not being anthropogenic anyway: El Nino and Pacific Ocean surface temperatures.
And something is amplifying the warmth even more....the Pacific Ocean. The ridging over the eastern Pacific and West Coast has resulted in warmer than normal waters, something demonstrated in a recent paper by Nick Bond (WA State Climatologist) and others. It seems like high pressure reduces winds and lessens the mixing of cooler water from below the surface. Thus, the eastern Pacific has been 3-6F warmer than normal, which warms the air reaching our region. To demonstrate this, here are the sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies (difference from normal) for the past month...you see the reds and orange colors off our coast? The is warm water. Nick Bond termed a colorful name for it: the BLOB.
posted by dialetheia at 12:22 PM on July 16, 2015




Anyway, I really do love Cliff Mass and he's frequently very insightful, but I would take his climate arguments with a grain of salt.

I'm finding, more and more, that Cliff Mass is suffering from what I call Professor Syndrome. Because he has a great deal of knowledge in one area, therefore he feels he is an authority in any area he chooses to be in.

He did it with the math books in Seattle Schools. Regardless of whether the math curriculum was bad, as a professor he speaks with a certain "authority" that lets him get away with making bad arguments.

I've had to explain numerous times to people that climate is not weather. It annoys me that the most respected weather authority in Seattle talks like climate IS weather.
posted by dw at 10:28 AM on July 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Here I think he went too far in the other direction. His flawed explanation basically boiled down to, "The current heat wave is weather; therefore it is not climate."
posted by mbrubeck at 10:26 PM on July 20, 2015


Then there's the occasional religious references in Cliff's posts that kind of make me go hmmm...
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:26 AM on July 26, 2015




Artw: “How to survive the Cascadia tsunami.
Man, I surfed through to the New Yorker update, and thence to the Tsunami Evacuation Map for Gearhart and Seaside [PDF]. It's grim.

Most of Seaside needs to run even for a "Distant Tsunami" where they might not feel an earthquake at all. Those west of the Necanicum River have just six bridges over it leading inland to safety. Then there are another four bridges leading over Neawanna Creek, half a mile from shore. It's another quarter- to half-mile past them to safety.

Long story short, unless you can do a mile on foot in under 10 minutes, best not to live along the beach in Seaside, Oregon.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:23 PM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's really pretty though.
posted by Artw at 1:38 PM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


From the New Yorker update:

Are we overdue for the Cascadia earthquake?

No, although I heard that word a lot after the piece was published. As DOGAMI’s Ian Madin told me, “You’re not overdue for an earthquake until you’re three standard deviations beyond the mean”—which, in the case of the full-margin Cascadia earthquake, means eight hundred years from now. (In the case of the “smaller” Cascadia earthquake, the magnitude 8.0 to 8.6 that would affect only the southern part of the zone, we’re currently one standard deviation beyond the mean.) That doesn’t mean that the quake won’t happen tomorrow; it just means we are not “overdue” in any meaningful sense. The odds I cite in the story are correct: there is a thirty-per-cent chance of the M8.0–8.6 Cascadia earthquake and a ten-per-cent chance of the M8.7–9.2 earthquake in the next fifty years.


Interesting definition of "overdue"
posted by storybored at 9:28 PM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


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