I moved to Eugene, Oregon just in time to hear all about this threat.
The Cascadia subduction zone, a convergent plate boundary that stretches from Northern California to Vancouver Island in Canada, wasn’t discovered by European settlers until 1970, but was well known to local tribes. That’s because in the year 1700, the Earth shook with an intense fury that resulted in extensive damage, villages washed away, countless deaths and even a tsunami in Japan.
Now, geologists believe that the earthquake, dubbed a “Megathrust” earthquake, is due to strike again. Due to the only recent discovery of the Cascadia fault, many structures in the region were not built with quakes in mind and the entire region is woefully unprepared for the 9.0+ quake.
The impact of this quake will likely badly damage Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Portland, Salem, and Eugene as well. It will be the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of North America. FEMA predicts that up to 13,000 people will perish and another 27,000 will be injured. To put it into perspective, 300 died from Hurricane Sandy, almost 2,000 died from Hurricane Katrina, and about 3,000 people died in San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake.
It’s expected that the agency will be required to provide shelter for a million people and food and water for another two and a half million.
While the University of Oregon is preparing with an early-warning system, there is no meaningful way to predict when it will strike. They’re suggesting a 20% likeliness that it will fire off in the next 50 years. One thing that happens with really big quakes is a compression wave launches out from the epicenter before shaking is felt. This often makes animals feel strange and can cause you too to feel a bit odd.
At that point, you have 2 minutes to get to wherever you want to be for it. The quake itself will be a monster. The shaking may last up to 5 minutes. The best place to be is under a sturdy piece of furniture. If you’re in the car, safely pull over to the side of the road and wait it out. Don’t slam on the brakes.