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What if an 8.8 earthquake hit Seattle?

Every time a powerful earthquake hits, people in Western Washington are reminded of the danger that could be out there for us.

The very deep and by comparison small quake that hit the region in 2001 did some damage, but what if it were stronger, more shallow, and along the Seattle fault?

Dave Ross wrote on Monday "Be prepared. Be ready to live alone for three days. The message is the same after every big earthquake. And a lot of us try to do all that -- but I look at the pictures from Chile, and I think -- no way! It's scaring us to the point of surrender. This morning I watched how many viaducts, bridges, unstable hillsides and giant buildings I pass on the way to work -- and there's no way!"

A study from 2008 indicates that as many as 1,000 buildings in Seattle could fall down in a strong earthquake.

In that study engineers looked at 575 buildings from the outside and further that estimated 850 to 1,000 old brick buildings that date back to the 1930s would be at risk if a 6.7-magnitude earthquake occurred on the Seattle fault, which runs through the center of Seattle and Bellevue.

The Seattle fault is widely considered the most dangerous quake threat to Seattle. Scientists have predicted that a significant earthquake on this fault could cause widespread devastation and at least 1,000 deaths in the city because of collapsed buildings, fires and other infrastructure failures.

On the Richter scale, every increase of one number means a tenfold increase in magnitude. Thus a reading of 7.5 reflects an earthquake 10 times stronger than one of 6.5. An earthquake of 3.5 on the Richter scale can cause slight damage in a local area, 4 can cause moderate damage, 5 considerable damage, and 6 can be severe. A 7 reading is a "major" quake, capable of widespread heavy damage, and 8 is a "great" quake, capable of tremendous damage.

In October the Washington State Department of Transportation released an animated video showing what could happen to the Alaskan Way Viaduct during an earthquake.

It shows catastrophe. The soil below the Viaduct liquefies, the seawall collapses, steam and gas pipes under the Viaduct break and leak, when the seawall fails completely the Viaduct pitches towards the sound and collapses taking cars and the roadway with it. Fires break out from nearby buildings and major transportation routes for aid and supplies are unusable.

The scariest part of the simulation is that it's only looking at a 7.0 earthquake.

What can you do? Experts say the best thing is to know about the risks and be prepared to wait out those three days without help, food, or water.

See Washington quakes from the last month with our earthquake tracker

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