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Recent earthquakes remind us that Seattle is due for Big One

Rubble from the Nisqually earthquake. Experts say we're do for another quake of similar size within the next 50 years. (Seattle Municipal Archives)

Recent earthquakes in the region might have Seattleites feeling a bit on edge. After all, the experts have been warning us all that “we’re due” for the Big One.

Most recently, a pair of quakes struck off the coast of Oregon late Monday and early Tuesday. A 5.7 magnitude earthquake was measured 127 miles west of Bandon, according to OregonLive. About three hours later, a 3.2 magnitude earthquake was measured 115 miles west of the community of Langlois.

Closer to home, a 3.2 magnitude earthquake shook Ravensdale and Maple Valley around 10:30am on Wednesday. A 3.0 magnitude earthquake was felt about 25 miles north of that, in the Carnation area, around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. On Monday, a 2.9 magnitude earthquake struck in the Monroe area around 3:40 a.m.

On December 15, a 3.2 magnitude earthquake shook the Bremerton area.  The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network wrote shortly after that swarms of earthquakes that have been going on since 2017. MyNorthwest wrote about the swarms as well. The PNSN post asked, ‘What does this all mean? Should people in Bremerton be scared? No!’ However, it pointed out that Washington and Oregon residents should always be prepared for a major earthquake.

The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to quakes. They happen daily, but most don’t register above a magnitude of 3.o. Check the MyNorthwest earthquake tracker to see all of this week’s earthquakes.

Some of us may just need to refresh our supplies after preparing for the Big One in 2015. Why 2015? That’s when Kathryn Schulz of the “New Yorker” wrote about the devastation Seattle can expect if, or rather when, a 9.0 earthquake shakes Seattle.

“Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast,” said Kenneth Murphy, who was directing FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, in Schulz’s piece. She explained the immense pressure mounting between the North American tectonic plate and the Juan de Fuca plate (the Cascadia subduction zone) and how we’re 72 years late in the local quake cycle. Now 77 years late.

In Schulz’s article, FEMA notably predicted 13,000 people will die in the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami, and another 27,000 will be injured. Over a million people will be displaced.

If that’s not enough to at least get you thinking, ‘Hmm, maybe I should strap down my flat screen and store some food in an old backpack,’ maybe a few suggestions from Washington’s Department of Emergency Management will. If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of building out a kit, the department suggests doing one small thing every month to prepare you and your family, including pets.

In January, get started with a communications plan. Experts warn that a major earthquake will likely prompt all of us to use our phones to contact loved ones, most likely overloading the system. Instead, it’s better to text someone out of state, who can then relay messages.

 

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