A massive earthquake on the Seattle fault would cause catastrophic tsunami waves

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released a study on July 7 detailing tsunami projections in the event of a magnitude 7.5 earthquake along the Seattle Fault.

The DNR’s Washington Geological Survey division modeled its projections after the last major earthquake to occur under the Seattle fault: a magnitude 7.5 earthquake that occurred about 1,100 years ago.

The models showed that after an earthquake of this magnitude, the resulting tsunami would inundate the coast of Seattle in more than 20 feet of water within 3 minutes of the initial earthquake.

As damaging as an earthquake of this magnitude can be, its consequences pale in comparison to the potential for disaster on another long-lived fault: the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ).

The CSZ is about 1,000 kilometers long on the West Coast and extends from California to British Columbia.

About every 250 years, Cascadia ruptures, causing a major earthquake on the West Coast. It has been 322 years since the last 9.0 Cascadia rupture, which occurred in 1700.

In other words, we’re in for a massive earthquake, or as some refer to it, “The Big One.”

“We are very far from being ready. We’re just starting to retrofit major buildings like hospitals,” said Dr. Chris Goldfinger, a leading expert on the Cascadia subduction zone and current professor at Oregon State University.

Much of the Pacific Northwest is behind the curve when it comes to earthquake preparedness infrastructure, he said.

“Our infrastructure is no better than that of Nepal or Haiti,” Goldfinger said.

There are things people can do to prepare for a disaster. One of the first steps is to build a survival kit.

The American Red Cross has a list on its website of recommended items to include in your survival kit, such as a first aid kit, enough water and food to last several days, copies of important documents, a flashlight, portable radio , extra batteries, etc. .

Another important step, according to Goldfinger, is to make sure your home is anchored to its foundation. Many older buildings are not anchored to their foundations, but it’s a fairly simple and affordable process to fix that problem to help your home withstand an earthquake, he said.

Likewise, it’s a good idea to position heavy furniture such as bookshelves and refrigerators so they don’t topple over during an earthquake.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, it is essential to have a plan for when “The Big One” arrives.

The general procedure outlined for earthquake safety in the US is DCHO, or “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” Goldfinger argues that there is very little evidence to support this strategy as the most effective option in an earthquake.

Goldfinger recommends a more personalized approach because everyone’s situation in an earthquake will be different depending on their physical environment. Some countries, such as Israel and Mexico, have already upgraded their earthquake response training to a situational awareness model.

This model encourages you to make a plan of what you will do and where you will go both at your workplace and at home. Find out if the building you work in is renovated. Consider the options you have based on your individual circumstances. Find out if you are in a tsunami risk zone and, if so, learn evacuation routes.

“The best thing you can do,” said Goldfinger, “is stick it in your conscience and make decisions accordingly.”

For more information on how the Cascadia subduction zone works, visit survivingcascadia.com. To learn more about Goldfinger’s reasoning behind the earthquake response situational awareness model, visit the link below.

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Jennifer Ahdout

Jennifer Ahdout

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