Major Gen. says ‘the big one’ will be a ‘catastrophe we have never seen’

Jun 8, 2016, 5:37 AM | Updated: 8:36 am
Military personnel would ideally be on the move immediately after a major earthquake strikes the Pa...
Military personnel would ideally be on the move immediately after a major earthquake strikes the Pacific Northwest. During a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters people need to be self-sufficient for several days after a major disaster. (Office of Gov. Inslee)
(Office of Gov. Inslee)

Military personnel would ideally be on the move immediately after a major earthquake strikes the Pacific Northwest. Exactly how mobile branches of the military would be after a mega-quake won’t be known until it happens.

Major General Bret Daugherty says when the Cascadia fault ruptures, “it will be a catastrophe we have never seen.”

Because an earthquake that could exceed magnitude-9.0 is something none of us, including the military, have experienced, Daugherty admits there are plenty of unknowns.

“If we had to dig ourselves out of a pile of two-by-fours, it would take longer to respond,” he explained Tuesday morning at Camp Murray during the first day of earthquake drills known as “Cascadia Rising.”

The Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast of North America spans from northern California to southern British Columbia. It can produce earthquakes as large as magnitude-9.0 and corresponding tsunamis. (FEMA)

Daugherty, who is the director of the state’s emergency management and enhanced 911 programs, asks that people stop for a second to imagine not being able to use common communication methods, such as cellphones and the Internet. There will be a lot of things we take for granted that will be out of commission.

“I’m sure there are some young people who are quivering at the thought,” Daugherty said.

Though government agencies would do all they can to respond to a devastating natural disaster — which is why they are hosting nearly a week of training in and around Puget Sound and beyond — Daugherty says the government can’t do everything.

“We will be impacted as well,” Daugherty said Tuesday. “We live here, too.”

FEMA suggests people have enough food and water to survive on their own for at least three days after a disaster. However, help from outside of the state could take days, Daugherty says.

Governor Jay Inslee, who is participating in the disaster drill this week, says everyone has to take a personal responsibility. A mega-quake will impact “every Washingtonian personally,” he said.

Inslee warns that along with cell service and phones lines, electricity could be out for days, weeks, or a month. There will be time before water service is restored.

And, according to Inslee, there’s a possibility an earthquake, even a major one, wouldn’t be worse than the resulting tsunami. Having met with leaders in Japan, a “lasting impression” was left on the governor after hearing about the devastation in 2011. Inslee told reporters that “if you’re going to put money into anything, put it into” tsunamis — which the state is doing.

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Major Gen. says ‘the big one’ will be a ‘catastrophe we have never seen’