Stories of “The Big One” — that megaquake that will devastate the West Coast, especially parts of California — are ever-present in the media of the Pacific coastal states but a new article maintains that preparedness is in order, because a major earthquake is not only over 70 years overdue along the Cascadia Fault Line, scientists are predicting that it will occur within the next half-century. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is already moving toward a state of readiness for when the earthquake hits…
The Christian Science Monitor reported July 16 that the Cascadia Fault Line (or Cascadia Subduction Zone), a geological feature that runs the Pacific Coast from Vancouver Island, Canada to Northern California, is far overdue to produce an earthquake on the scale of an 8.0 up to a 9.2 in magnitude within the next few years — or maybe tomorrow. Although the time of the next earthquake isn’t all that certain, scientists studying the geological history of the region have found that it produces one of that magnitude (around 9.0 or higher) about once every 500 to 600 years, according to Vox.com.
But it was Kathryn Shulz’s article in the July issue of The New Yorker that caught everyone’s attention and focused it on the Pacific Northwest and the impending massive earthquake. Shulz revealed that FEMA was already hard at work on preparing for what portends to be a modern-day catastrophe. In fact, FEMA predicts that some thirteen thousand people will die as a result of an earthquake tripped by the Cascadia Subduction Zone and the subsequently triggered tsunami. Another twenty-seven thousand will likely be injured. The federal agency expects that as many as a million displaced people will be in need of shelter. FEMA also predicts it will have to provide food and water for another two and a half million individuals caught up in the aftermath.
The problem? There are major cities that lie in the impact zone — Seattle, Portland, Vancouver — of the Cascadia Subjuction Zone should an earthquake — and tsunami — occur. The range of devastation could reach into Alaska and down into Central and Southern California, not to mention Idaho. The major points of impact, however, will be Washington, Oregon, and Northern California in the U. S. British Columbia will bear the brunt in Canada should there be a slip in the Juan de Fuca crustal plate, which is the plate being shoved under the North American Plate over time. It is that movement under, the subduction, after periods of pressure build-up due to non-movement of tectonic plates that produces the earthquakes.
“It will take 50 years for us to prepare for this impending earthquake,” Scott Ashford, Kearney Professor and dean of the Oregon State University College of Engineering, advised US House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management in May, according to the Monitor. “The time to act is before you have the earthquake. Everybody needs to take some responsibility and start preparing now.”
The news to get prepared for “The Big One” comes only months after the region received the news from the U. S. Geological Survey that the likelihood of a megaquake (a catastrophic earthquake measuring 8.0 magnitude or higher) along the San Andreas Fault Line was estimated to be twice as high as previously thought. In March, the USGS said that the San Andreas Fault, which runs 700 miles from Southern California to Humboldt County in the northern part of the state (where it abuts the Cascadia Fault Line), was likely to produce such an earthquake within the next 30 years.