Nation’s Eyes on Oregon’s Earthquake Preparedness

In the wake of the tragedy in Japan, local and national news have been striving to answer the question are we prepared for when it will happen here?

The short answer is no. In Oregon, many don’t consider earthquakes an issue because we simply haven’t encountered them. A reason for Californians moving to Oregon has been to escape quakes. Yet Oregon has a dark history of far more powerful earthquakes than either California or Japan. According to scientists at Oregon State University, there is a one-in-three chance that a major quake will strike in the next 50 years somewhere between Newport and Northern California, along the southern fault of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Oregon receives a similar sized earthquake to the one that struck Japan (9.0 magnitude) once every 300 to 1,000 years, with the last being 300 years ago along the at-risk subduction zone. Furthermore, aftershocks from a major event can strike fault lines similar to those plentiful in the Willamette valley at a shallow level similar to what hit Christchurch, New Zealand a month ago.

Japan has long been the example of the most prepared country for Earthquakes and Tsunamis, and even they were caught off guard. For example, after 31 years of construction the city of Kamaishi completed the Kamaishi Tsunami Protection Breakwater (coastal defense structure) in early 2009, recognized by Guinness World Records as the deepest. Having faced many tsunamis before with no problem, many stayed at ground level trusting their seawall. However the 14 foot tsunami breached the seawall, flooding the city and providing dramatic video. The true impact of the tsunami remains to be seen, as responders have yet to reach much of the city.

Watch the attached video from CNN featuring the ‘Prophet of Doom’, Earth Science officer for the state James Roddey, to hear his predictions for what Oregon can expect when the big one strikes here.