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Scientists say no need to panic over Seattle earthquake

Hold on to your water heaters, because when the big one hits, it's going to cause some destruction and at least minor inconvenience. (AP)

Hold on to your water heaters because when the big one hits, it’s going to cause some destruction and at least minor inconvenience.

The latest earthquakes recorded in the Pacific Northwest

When a high-magnitude earthquake hits the Pacific Northwest, scientists say it’s not going to be as devastating as an article in The New Yorker makes it seem.

The idea that “everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast” is exaggerated, University of Washington Seismologist Bill Steele told KIRO Radio.

“As far as the damage, it is a bit of an exaggeration,” he said. “It implies everything will be badly destroyed.”

There will be some pockets of “severe damage” when a magnitude 8.7-plus earthquake rocks the West Coast. But when the Cascadia subduction zone unleashes its wrath upon us Washingtonians, it’s probably not going to kill the 13,000 people The New Yorker reports.

“It’s going to be tough going for a while, if people aren’t ready to survive on their own for at least a week,” Steele said.

The basic science in The New Yorker article is on point, according to Steele. However, the tone is much darker than it needs to be, he said. The article errs on the side of fear, with the most severe and broad damage that could happen during a major earthquake.

The article states about 140,000 square miles and 7 million people will be in harm’s way.

Steele told KIRO Radio the chance of a magnitude 9 quake is 15 percent in the next 50 years.

Just because a massive earthquake might not be as likely or as devastating, doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be prepared. University of Washington Seismologist John Vidale said it’s important to have a family plan in place in case of such an emergency and to have a ration of supplies.

In addition to strapping down your water heater and building a food and water supply, Vidale recommends checking out an emergency management website and taking small steps to begin your preparation. The Washington National Guard has preparedness tips for riding out the Big One.

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