California Earthquake in Pacific Causes Scientists to Rethink Theory

Friday, 14 Mar 2014 07:40 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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The 6.8 earthquake in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Eureka, Calif. on Sunday has made scientists postulate that California's long awaited "Big One" may not come from the San Andreas fault, as was previously thought, but from the lesser-known Cascadia fault.

The Cascadia fault produced Sunday's earthquake and well as a 7.2 earthquake off Crescent City in 2005, the two largest California earthquakes in the last decade. Representatives of the California Geological Survey told the Los Angeles Times that the fault has caused six earthquakes of 7.0 of more in the last century. 

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"Katrina was a worst case scenario for hurricanes in the gulf. And a Cascadia would be the worst case scenario for tsunamis on the West Coast," Paul Whitmore, director of the National Tsunami Warning Center in Alaska, said.

Japan's 9.0 earthquake in 2011 has heightened concerns worldwide about the threat of earthquakes and tsunamis. The earthquake's epicenter was 231 miles northeast of Tokyo, and it sent 30-foot waves crashing on Japan's coast, decimating coastal towns and seriously damaging six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi plant. 

The earthquake, the fourth largest ever recorded and the largest to affect Japan, killed 15,884 people, CNN reported. 

A powerful 9.0 earthquake in the Indian Ocean Dec. 26, 2004 caused widespread devastation, killing 150,000 along the Indian coast and leaving millions homeless in 11 countries, according to National Geographic. 

The Los Angeles Times reported that scientists predict a similar fate for the Pacific Coast if Cascadia's tectonic plates create a 9.0 earthquake. The Cascadia fault system runs 700 miles off the coast of Northern California to Vancouver Island.

According to a report from geologists last year, a tsunami from a 9.0 Cascadia earthquake would destroy California's scenic U.S. 101, create $70 billion in damage along the Pacific coast, and collapse more than 100 bridges, which would isolate many coastal towns.

Officials in Washington state have already been discussing building about 50 "tsunami safe havens," such as artificial hills that could hold as many as 800 people.

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