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Megaquake: West Coast Due for 'the Big One' Soon, Say Scientists

By    |   Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 08:39 AM

A megaquake on the West Coast could be coming soon, say scientists, as the fault zone stretching from Vancouver to Northern California, an area known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone, is long overdue for a massive event.

"We're 300 years into a 240 year cycle," Dr. Chris Goldfinger, a marine geologist and professor at Oregon State University, told CNN.

He and other scientists have recorded 42 megaquakes — earthquakes of at least 9.0 magnitude — in the Cascadia zone over the last 10,000 years, with the most recent coming in the year 1700. At the northern end of the Cascadia fault, a major quake occurs every 250 years, and at the south end quakes occur every 500 years.

Based on this pattern, it appears northern cities like Oregon are due for what scientists commonly refer to as "The Big One."

Last year, Oregon legislators received the results of a study commissioned in 2011 called the Oregon Resilience Plan. In addition to study the effects of a megaquake, it also takes on the specifics of any tsunamis it may cause. Much of the data is based on the damage caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which killed over 15,000 people.

The resilience plan noted that there were no earthquake-minded building requirements in Oregon until 1974, and building codes have only been up to megaquake standards since 1993.

Ian Madin, a geologist at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, said that currently, a worse-case scenario playing out in the Cascadia zone could result in up to 10,000 deaths. Preparedness on the part of the government and its citizens could drastically lower this number.

"The most important thing is to strengthen or replace infrastructure to make sure that our lifeline systems like power and water will not be so severely damaged that they require years to repair. We also need to strengthen or replace critical facilities like hospitals, fire and police facilities and schools," he said.

It will be up to a special task force established by the Oregon Legislature to come up with a list of recommendations for action in the 2015 session.

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A megaquake on the West Coast could be coming soon, say scientists, as the fault zone stretching from Vancouver to Northern California, an area known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone, is long overdue for a massive event.
megaquake, west coast, due
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2014-39-15
Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 08:39 AM
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