Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Big 9.0 Earthquake

A devastating 9.0 earthquake is expected in Seattle according to experts. It could happen anytime. Science writer for the Seattle Times, Sandi Doughton wrote a book, The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest: FULL RIP 9.0. She was at the main library in downtown Seattle this evening to talk to a crowded room of people wanting to know all about it. When it is going to happen? What will happen? How badly will our area be paralyzed?

The good news is that we have all the information so we need to prepare. There is good reason to invest in making sure our buildings will be safe because it will minimize the millions of dollars in damage and cost of lives. We need to heed the warning and listen.

I was happy to know when I glanced through her book on page 195 that the troll underneath the bridge in Fremont will be okay. Steps have already been taken to protect the bridge and the troll. We must remember though that there are lots of bridges in Seattle and not all are structurally sound.

If the big one does happen, there will be acute damage all the way to the Cascades. A 10,000 square foot area will be hardest hit. Experts say there is a 86% chance of a big earthquake in the next 30 years. Rivers would change course. The resulting tsunami that would follow the five minutes of shaking would cause ocean water to cover a large area of Seattle in areas close to sea level. It's not a great idea to live near lakes and rivers that feed into the ocean when a tsunami hits because the water would surge and cover low areas along these areas. Experts mapped the area south of Seattle has being hit hard by the water from the tsunami. If the quake would be anything like the 1700 Cascadia, any low area up and down the Pacific Northwest could be a disaster area. After all, we do live in the Ring of Fire in the Northwest with potential earthquakes and volcanic activity.

In 2010, Chili had a 8.8 megaquake. On page 188 of FULL RIP 9.0, Sandi Doughton says, "Chilean codes generally require stronger construction than do codes in the United States." Yanev, who has investigated the damage of major earthquakes all over the world said, "If our buildings were in Chile, they would be all over the ground." Find out exactly what is needed to protect the building you are living in. Don't assume if you own a million dollar condo in downtown Seattle that your building is safe even if it has steel girders. Find out exactly what is needed to make your building safe and talk to your condo association and demand that it be done.

On page 191 of her book, Sandi says, "The most dangerous structures in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and scores of smaller cities across the Northwest are concrete buildings constructed before the mid-1970's. Engineers call them nonductile, which means they can't bend without breaking. Their columns lack enough steel reinforcement to keep them from collapsing in a major shake. And when heavy concrete buildings collapse, it can be deadly to anyone trapped inside."

We know we need to prepare. We know we need to reinforce our buildings. We know that emergency response teams, utility companies, and medical responders need to prepare for such an event. Schools need to prepare. Families need to prepare. We don't know how long it will take to have things return to "normal" after such an event. The more we prepare, the better and easier it will be.

It is a good idea to find out if the building you are living in is earthquake proof. More than likely, it is not. The State of Washington has a list of buildings that are unsafe. Seattle has a list. It is a good idea to find out how to make your home safe and then do it. One thing I learned is that if you have a home with a cement slab for a foundation, you better make sure that the house is bolted onto the foundation. I guess that is important.

I'm not going to live scared of what could or might happen. So much in life could happen. You never know what tomorrow will bring. It's good to prepare and know what to do in case of emergency. Seattle and the State of Washington can do something about preparing for a disaster so that the tragic loss of life is minimized.

There are lots of important information, tips, and facts in this book so you can understand, not only what could happen and why, but how to protect yourself. Buy it and buy copies of your friends and family.

I guess the State Department of Transportation has a worse case scenario video that is available. Ask about it. Learn what to do.

Sandi Doughton has investigated stories for the Seattle Times all over the world. She's a hero. I admire her, as I do all serious journalists. Buy her book and learn the details about the possible earthquake to hit Seattle.

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