As recent earthquakes have rocked parts of Mexico and New Zealand, Pacific Northwesterners may be wondering if we're next—and what our government is doing to protect us from the massive earthquake that will someday break along the Cascadia fault line off the coast of Washington state.
Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker staff writer who scared the bejesus out of Northwesterners in her Pulitzer-winning article, "The Really Big One," described the coming quake:
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.... The water will surge upward into a huge hill, then promptly collapse. One side will rush west, toward Japan. The other side will rush east, in a seven-hundred-mile liquid wall that will reach the Northwest coast, on average, fifteen minutes after the earthquake begins. By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable. Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMAs Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”
It will be, Schulz writes,"the worst natural disaster in the history of the continent." So how are Washington leaders preparing? According to a forthcoming report from Gov. Jay Inslee's Resilient Washington Subcabinet, a group convened this year to help the state prepare for natural disasters, the state isn't doing much of anything.
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