As you no doubt remember, because how could you forget, the New Yorker scared the crap out of us a couple weeks back with a piece on the potential havoc "The Big One" could unleash on the Pacific Northwest if and when it happens. Seeing the local reaction, which ranged from "horrifying" to "scary as fuck," author Kathryn Schultz decided she wanted to follow that up with a deeper discussion on what's likely to happen here if an earthquake strikes and what exactly folks in the Seattle area can do to prepare.
One of the big questions that came up in the wake (pun intended) of the article was who exactly would be affected by a tsunami.
Only those who are inside the inundation zone when the earthquake strikes. That zone is as long as the fault line—seven hundred miles, from California to Canada—but very narrow. Exactly how far inland the zone extends varies considerably, not only with the size of the earthquake but also with the shape and height of the coastline and factors like the presence of rivers (which function as hoses, creating a narrower channel in which the water will travel further). At most, however, the tsunami will reach just three miles inland.
The big line that many people took away from the piece was whether or not the I-5 was actually the line of demarcation between who will be okay and who will be "toast." What does that really mean?
What Murphy did not mean is that everyone west of I-5 will be injured or killed; FEMA's casualty figures, while horrifying, amount to under one-half of one percent of the population of the region. Nor did he mean that every structure west of the interstate will fail, although there the numbers are grimmer: region-wide, the agency expects to see seriously damaged or destroyed eighty-eight percent of ports and potable water sources; seventy-seven per cent of fire stations and waste-water treatment plants; two-thirds of all airports, hospitals, railways, and schools; almost half of all highway bridges, police stations, and emergency command centers; plus almost three thousand miles of natural gas pipelines, seven hundred and forty-three electric power facilities, and nearly a million residential buildings. Ultimately, if The Big One hits, there isn't too much we can do for advanced warning (though we should keep demanding new systems). But there are some things people can do to prepare. Schultz points out bolting any home west of the Cascades to it's foundation, strapping down your water heater, redecorating with gravity in mind, making a plan and keeping an earthquake kit handy. Also, if you do live in a tsunami zone, know your escape route by car and by foot.
There's plenty more information included so go give it a read and then let us know if this makes you feel better or if you're still planning on moving to Montana...just in case...
· Did The New Yorker's Earthquake Article Scare the Crap Out of You or What? [CS]
· The Really Big One [NYer]
· How To Stay Safe When The Big One Comes [NYer]
· All Natural Disaster coverage [CS]