Washington officials preparing for massive earthquake drill

Feb 29, 2016, 6:58 AM | Updated: 7:52 am
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, center left, heads under a table as Rep. Rep. Suzan DelBene...
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, center left, heads under a table as Rep. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., dives under another during an earthquake drill as part of a statewide Great ShakeOut drill at the Oso firehouse. (AP)

The earthquake that could devastate the Pacific Northwest is still weighing heavily on the minds of emergency managers.

Though it’s months away, officials in Washington are already preparing for a massive, four-day earthquake and tsunami drill.

The Seattle Times reports that nearly 6,000 emergency and military personnel will pretend the ground is shaking on June 7 to test response to a massive seismic event. The simulation will test responses to an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.

Related: Scientists say no need to panic over Seattle earthquake

During the exercise, emergency managers will try to handle the theoretical catastrophe in hopes of identifying problems and improving response if the real event occurs.

The last damaging earthquake in the Pacific Northwest was in February 2001 when the Nisqually quake measured a magnitude of 6.8. But the Nisqually quake isn’t the latest that rattled the nerves of Washington residents. A 4.8-magnitude quake shook near Victoria B.C. in December. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network reported the earthquake was felt by hundreds of thousands of people, at least, 10,000 reported feeling it on the network’s website.

The drill scheduled for June follows a the White House Earthquake Resilience Summit, where the University of Washington was among a group of West Coast universities awarded $3.6 million in funding to advance the earthquake early warning system. Though the system has seen improvements, it isn’t working as efficiently as researchers would like it to. The Victoria quake was detected within about 10 seconds from when it occurred.

Despite all the hubbub regarding a major earthquake event, at least, some officials argue that the Pacific Northwest is by no means overdue for one. Take the United States Geological Survey, for example; a recent tweet says that while it has been more than 300 years since the last mega-quake, the average interval is 500-600 years. There is a 10-15 percent chance that a magnitude-9.0 quake will occur in the next 50 years, according to the USGS.

If the USGS is correct, then a drill in June won’t be too late and emergency managers will have more time to prepare our region for the major catastrophe that will hit eventually.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Washington officials preparing for massive earthquake drill