Devastating Anniversary

Maybe you saw the “hoax” article on Facebook about a pending earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific Northwest. A quick response from the National Weather Service said there was nothing to worry about. 

But for record, the last time the Juan De Fuca tectonic plate and the North American tectonic plate had a super destructive meeting was January 26, 1700. 

And also for the record, these super-destructive earthquakes happen with eerie 243-year regularity. So if there is some concern about a pending quake, the ominous anniversary reminds us that we’re overdue a “big one”.

These mega-earthquakes have been traced all the way back to AD 599.  But now this amazingly beautiful real estate is home to millions—in cities like Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Portland, and Salem with hundreds of towns in between.

Volumes of credible research and the best seismic equipment isn’t enough to give those of us living in the Pacific Northwest much warning for the anticipated 9.2 earthquake. 

Experts say that it will be the worst natural disaster in American history. If you live anywhere other than the Pacific Northwest you can take a deep, thankful breath and skip to the final paragraph.

For friends who share this shaky piece of real estate, let’s talk. 


What are the warning signs of the big one? First thing is a compression wave radiating outward from the Juan de Fuca plate. 

This is a rapid, high-frequency wave—audible to dogs. We will feel a sudden jolt. This is your 30-90 second warning. Japan has an advanced warning system that would pick up this wave frequency, immediately shutting down power plants and railways. 

Americans are not as fortunate. But we have our dogs. When you feel the jolt accompanied by a chorus of barking dogs, you’ll know that within a minute the surface waves will begin—the ground moving both up and down and side to side.

Anything unsecured will come crashing down. Think Hollywood catastrophic movie, only now it’s real. FEMA experts say a 9.2 quake could take down a million buildings (including 3000 schools), half of the bridges, railroads, police stations, and hospitals. 

The subsequent landslides and liquefaction (when solid ground becomes liquid-like) would create more havoc. Tsunamis will follow and for those in its wake, it will most likely be unsurvivable.

In a region bursting with productivity from Microsoft and Boeing to the regional shipping terminal for millions of dollars in agricultural products, we’d be economically devastated. 

Anticipated deaths would be above 13 thousand. A million people will be displaced and there’d be immediate needs of food and water for another 2.5 million people. 

The odds are 1 in 3 that the region will have a significant quake in the next fifty years and 1 in 10 for our worst nightmare earthquake. 

If nothing else, it would be great if all of this media attention could facilitate the procurement of an early warning system like Japan’s so we wouldn’t be relying on the warning chorus of barking dogs.

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