History won’t let us forget we’re due for mega earthquake

Jan 26, 2018, 2:44 PM | Updated: 3:29 pm
(File, MyNorthwest)
(File, MyNorthwest)

Around 9 p.m. on Jan. 26, 1700, one of the largest earthquakes the Pacific Northwest has ever experienced struck.

WATCH: ‘Big One’ simulation

The quake is believed to have been comparable to the magnitude 9.2 earthquake of March 27, 1964, in Alaska and the magnitude 9.2 quake of 1960 in Chile.

The ground shook for up to five minutes and created a tsunami that traveled across the Pacific Ocean, eventually hitting the east coast of the main island of Japan.

Researchers believe the earthquake was linked to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The subduction zone is the area where the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate and North American plate overlap. When it hit, the coastline along the Pacific Northwest is believed to have dropped as much as 6 feet.

There hasn’t been a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake since that day in January of 1700. Scientists say a magnitude 8.0 quake happens every 250 years on average. That means we’re “overdue” for a large-scale earthquake.

The magnitude 7.9 Alaska quake on Tuesday was just another reminder of the reality we face.

There are efforts underway to better prepare us for a mega-quake. The Shake Alert system, for example, is moving forward and will eventually be used to shut down critical infrastructure and warn people prior to a large quake.

A visit to the earthquake simulator

Cities are also preparing for a devastating quake through retrofitting. However, much work has yet to be done on that front. In Seattle, for example, the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections compiled a list of more than 1,100 buildings that are in danger of being destroyed or severely damaged during an earthquake. The problem: there is no mandatory requirement for property owners to retrofit them.

As Reuters reported after the Alaska quake on Tuesday, there are concerns that the region is also under-prepared for a tsunami. Scientists, Reuters reports, have only pinpointed about half the areas where tsunamis are likely to come ashore after a Cascadia-related earthquake. The state’s chief hazard geologist said “a lot needs to be done” to prepare for a tsunami.

Even the tsunami warning system has much to be desired. Though people in Alaska received warnings to move to higher ground for a potential tsunami, some residents on Washington’s coast received no warning whatsoever because the threat didn’t raise to the level requiring an alert.

Bookmark the Earthquake Tracker

Local News

Echo Glen...
Dalton Day

Echo Glen youth detention center, site of recent escape, understaffed, underfunded, report says

A 2018 report indicates that employees of Echo Glen insist that the detention facility is short staffed, and that its counselors are not sufficiently trained.
1 day ago
Washington voting...
Nick Bowman

Washington weighs significant changes to how (and when) it votes in 2022

A trio of proposals related to how Washington conducts its elections could bring dramatic voting changes to the state by the end of the legislative session.
1 day ago
Paine Field 5G...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

5G concerns, fog lead to more cancellations at Paine Field

More Alaska Airlines flights out of Paine Field were cancelled Thursday, citing issues created by the combination of 5G signals and fog.
1 day ago
catalytic converter...
MyNorthwest Staff

Competing proposals for catalytic converter theft crackdown up for Thursday vote

Competing proposals from Democrats and Republicans to crack down on catalytic converter thefts are set for committee votes on Jan. 27.
2 days ago
Gov. Jay Inslee, long-term care tax...
MyNorthwest Staff

Gov. Inslee approves 18-month delay on long-term care tax

The Washington State Senate voted to delay implementation of the new long-term care payroll tax on Wednesday. 
2 days ago
Rideshare companies...
Nick Bowman

Rideshare companies pour millions into PAC ahead of push for Washington ballot initiative

Rideshare companies have poured over $2 million into a new PAC, in what appears to be the precursor for a Washington ballot initiative. 
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

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, […]
History won’t let us forget we’re due for mega earthquake