November 20, 2017
Oregon/California Earthquake Will 'Toast' The Coast? Scientists Discuss FEMA Prediction

The possibility of a huge Oregon-California earthquake wiping out the coast has been going viral in recent times. Although it really is possible for the Cascadia fault line to cause a megaquake, one FEMA representative made things worse by saying the whole area would be "toast" after tsunamis hit the beaches. Since that comment sounds over the top, scientists were asked to comment on the possibility of an Oregon earthquake wiping out the coast.

In a related report by the Inquisitr, the Cascadia subduction zone could trigger a mega earthquake if a section of the Cascadia fault line were to rip, but scientists have been quick to clarify their earthquake predictions. The Hayward fault zone could also cause another great San Francisco earthquake, and a USGS scientist created some panic when he said this quake could happen at "any time" now.

The last time a megathrust earthquake devastated the region of Oregon and California was way back in the year 1700. The Cascadia subduction zone is 1,000-kilometer long fault line that stretches from Northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino, California. Earthquakes caused by great subduction zones can produce quakes greater than magnitude 8.5, and it is believed the Cascadia subduction zone has exceeded magnitude 9.0 in the past.

Cascadia Subduction Zone USGS Photo
Cascadia Subduction Zone [Image Credit: USGS]

If another mega earthquake occurs in Oregon, earthquake experts believe the infrastructure is not ready. Many buildings have not been upgraded to deal with high-level seismic activity, and Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney believes school children could be at risk.

"This is going to be the greatest natural disaster to hit our state, and the children are probably more vulnerable to this than anything else imaginable," Senator Courtney said, according to Eugene Weekly. "Kids rely on us to make decisions for them. Today, the children of Oregon are totally vulnerable because of what the adults are not doing."

Patrick Corcoran, a hazards outreach specialist with Oregon State University's Sea Grant Extension program, says coastal areas need to prepare in the event of a major Oregon earthquake.

"Now that we understand our vulnerability to mega-quakes and tsunamis, we need to develop a culture that is prepared at a level commensurate with the risk," Corcoran said. "Unlike Japan, which has frequent earthquakes and thus is more culturally prepared for them, we in the Pacific Northwest have not had a mega-quake since European settlement. And since we have no culture of earthquakes, we have no culture of preparedness."

The Oregon Resilience Plan claims an Oregon earthquake could cause $30 billion in damage within the state. Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA in the areas that would be affected by the mega earthquake predictions, says this megaquake could kill around 13,000 people. Another 27,000 would be injured, and millions would be displaced from their damaged and destroyed homes.

"Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast," Murphy said. "This is one time that I'm hoping all the science is wrong, and it won't happen for another thousand years."

But if the Cascadia fault line rips, does this really mean the whole area will be "toast" as the FEMA official said? To answer this question, a scientist joined a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session.

John Vidale is the director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, and he's also the Washington State Seismologist. When asked about the New Yorker article that launched the discussion of the Cascadia subduction zone, he admitted it was well done.

"Overall, it was a well-written and documented article. The scenario left an impression of much greater devastation than is anticipated to occur, however," Vidale said. "The article had a lot of good information in it and there is a lot of real risk and a lot of preparation we need to do, but it was a little 'Hollywood' because it made it seem like it was going to be burning rubble if we had an earthquake."

Reddit readers also asked specifically about the FEMA prediction, which claimed the coast would be "toast" as Kenneth Murphy said.

"Yes, you put your finger on the quote most easily taken out of context," Vidale replied. "Communications may black out, transportation may grind to a halt, stores conceivably could run out of goods for a while, but that doesn't constitute 'toast' in one's mind. The speaker must have been referring to some aspect of those problems, not to smoking rubble."

If a major Oregon or California earthquake occurs, the experts recommend having seven to 10 days worth of supplies ready just in case. Vidale also claimed they are testing an earthquake warning system for the Pacific Northwest, but it "needs more testing and full funding before it is ready to be released to the public."

[Image via Comic Vine]