American Cities Vulnerable? Tsunamis Have California/Oregon Unprepared For A Cascadia Subduction Zone Mega Earthquake

Shortly after the Chile earthquake, many wondered if it would make American cities vulnerable. Tsunamis in Chile reached heights of only 15 feet this time around, but the magnitude-8.3 earthquake still killed at least 12 people. But what really makes American cities vulnerable on the West Coast is if a mega earthquake were to be triggered by the Cascadia fault line.

In a related report by the Inquisitr, seismologists estimate that a mega earthquake triggered by the Cascadia subduction zone could reach magnitude-9.2 and last about four minutes, triggering a gigantic tsunami that reaches the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington State about 15 minutes later. Kenneth Murphy, who heads FEMA’s Region X, claims “everything west of Interstate 5″ along the Northwest coast “will be toast.”

Back in July, Michio Kaku, a physicist at City College of New York, claimed that it was reasonable to say the Cascadia subduction zone could trigger the worst natural disaster in American history.

“The Cascadia fault is an earthquake waiting to happen,” he explained. “We know it’s going to happen with energy 30 times the maximum energy of the San Andreas fault.”

Jay Patton, an OSU doctoral student, noted that the region was long overdue for the big one.

“By the year 2060, if we have not had an earthquake, we will have exceeded 85 percent of all the known intervals of earthquake recurrence in 10,000 years,” Patton said. “The interval between earthquakes ranges from a few decades to thousands of years. But we already have exceeded about three-fourths of them.”

Unfortunately, although the Cascadia fault line makes American cities vulnerable, tsunamis triggered by the devastating megaquake pose an additional danger due to the lack of preparedness by coastal cities. Writer Kathryn Schulz claims cities in California, Oregon, and Washington State could be crippled for months by a mega earthquake.

“OSSPAC estimates that in the I-5 corridor it will take between one and three months after the earthquake to restore electricity, a month to a year to restore drinking water and sewer service, six months to a year to restore major highways, and eighteen months to restore health-care facilities,” wrote Schulz. “Obviously some of the most disturbing statistics and information from that story come from the tsunami inundation zone in the coastal region, where it really is stark. Either you get out of the inundation zone and you’re fine or you can’t get out and you really are not fine.”

Various organizations have published tsunami inundation zone maps showing the areas and American cities vulnerable to tsunamis.

To a small extent, the Chile earthquake gave the world a taste of how far-reaching the effects of a major earthquake can be. The quake was felt through South America, and the coastal earthquake sent small tsunamis all the way to the beaches of Japan, where the waves reached a height of 1.3 feet. According to the Spokesman-Review, Japan says “Washington may need to improve its evacuation procedures for coastal communities.”

According to the Weather Channel, the U.S. government’s National Tsunami Warning Center measured California’s tsunami waves generated by the Chile earthquake, and they reached a peak of 1.1 feet above the normal tide levels.

Part of the reason Chile weathered their earthquake so well was because of the level of earthquake/tsunami preparedness.

“Chile has good codes and good compliance, which together have reduced the vulnerabilities of their building stock over the decades,” said Richard Olson, director of Florida International University’s Extreme Events Institute, according to the Columbian. “I would rather be there in one of their cities than in many other countries in an earthquake.”

Because of the real potential danger, Schulz says American cities in these tsunami inundation zones need to begin preparing for the worst possible scenario.

“This is a real problem and there are things they can do about it,” she said. “It’s a major fault line. It’s going to produce a very major earthquake. The response to that should not be blind panic or obliviousness… You’re better off being prepared than sticking your head in the sand.”

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