Scientists say Seattle’s overdue earthquake could happen within 50 years

Jul 13, 2015, 11:09 AM | Updated: Jul 14, 2015, 8:34 am
"An entire civilization" built on top of a zone ripe for destruction. (AP)

The Pacific Northwest won’t be the same after a devastating earthquake that scientists say has pretty good odds of happening in the next 50 years or less.

When the big one hits, FEMA projects almost 13,000 people will die in a major Cascadia earthquake and tsunami, Kathryn Schulz of The New Yorker writes.

Check the Northwest Earthquake Tracker

Schulz writes that a major quake could be on the horizon and could leave everything west of Interstate 5 “unrecognizable.” That includes areas of Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia, as well as portions of western Oregon; about 140,000 square miles and seven million people will be in harm’s way, Schulz writes. Along with the estimated deaths, there will be another 27,000 injuries.

“An entire civilization” has been built on top of an area ripe for destruction, based on data we didn’t have 50 years ago.

Though it’s difficult to argue against the data, are Northwesterners really in as much danger as someone writing for an East Coast publication makes it seem, or are the people of New York just irritated that the West Coast is a better place to live?

Yes, we know, it rains all the time in Seattle. Except for several months out of the year when the weather is perfect.

Highs of mid 80s with lows of 60, we’ll take that over near 90s or above. Of course, what better way to bring out the ripe smell of rotting garbage than blistering heat?

According to Schulz, the odds of a magnitude 8 to 8.6 quake hitting the West Coast is one in three. It’s less likely for an even bigger quake &#8212 magnitude 8.7 to 9.2. Those odds are one in 10.

The danger all stems from the Cascadia subduction zone, a 700-mile fault line that stretches from Vancouver Island down to Cape Mendocino, California. It’s a disaster waiting to happen that nobody knew existed less than 50 years ago.

If a magnitude 8.7 to 9.2 earthquake hits, the Northwest edge of the continental shelf will drop as much as six feet and then rebound 30 to 100 feet to the west. All the elevation gained will be lost within minutes, displacing an almost unfathomable amount of water that will go both east and west. A “liquid wall” will reach the coast in about 15 minutes.

It’s an almost too-likely scenario with the information now available. The amount of time that elapses between subduction earthquakes is 243 years, Schulz writes. Based on the quake of 1700, the area is now 350 years in its cycle &#8212 or 72 years past its due date.

Yet, with all this data being released about devastation, it hasn’t stopped people from flocking to Seattle to start new lives.

Local News

arrest North Seattle school...
MyNorthwest Staff

Seattle police arrest 13-year-old after threat against school

Seattle Police Department has detained a 13 year-old in response to a gun violence threat against Whitman Middle School.
16 hours ago
Ballard Commons Park. (Jason Rantz/KTTH)...
MyNorthwest Staff

Seattle clears Ballard Commons homeless camp, relocates 66 into shelter options

Seattle has officially closed the Ballard Commons. In the process, “at least 66 people” were relocated into low income housing or shelter options.
16 hours ago
Seattle unreinforced masonry buildings...
Nick Bowman

Seattle plans to finally address over 1,100 buildings at risk of collapse in earthquake

Seattle leaders are looking to address the over 1,100 buildings at risk of collapse in the event of the next major earthquake.
16 hours ago
catalytic converter...
KIRO Radio Newsdesk

State lawmaker floats proposal to curb recent rise in catalytic converter thefts

A Washington state lawmaker in Longview has filed legislation designed to stymie a recent rise in catalytic converter thefts.
16 hours ago
School shooting threat, Snohomish County...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Officials: Snohomish County teen falsely accused classmate of threatening school shooting

Charges have been referred for a 13-year-old Snohomish County teen for falsely accusing a classmate of threatening a school shooting.
16 hours ago
fraud, employment, auditor...
Nicole Jennings

State auditor: Unemployment office needed stronger checks to prevent employee fraud

In a new report, the state Auditor's Office says a lack of checks at the Employment Security Department allowed a former employee to get away with fraud.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles


COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Scientists say Seattle’s overdue earthquake could happen within 50 years