earthquake preparedness

By Tom Banse

More than one thousand Washington National Guard members are rehearsing a worst-case earthquake scenario this week. That would be a magnitude nine rupture of the offshore Cascadia fault zone. Adjutant General Bret Daugherty says he assumes quake relief in that case will need to be delivered by airlift from east of the Cascades.

"We're going to have large pockets of isolation because we're not going to be able to travel on the ground. So really, help is going to have to flow into Western Washington from the east. Spokane is going to play a critical role there," says Daugherty.

Andy Maguire / Flickr

Congressional Democrats from up and down the West Coast are asking the House Appropriations Committee to allocate more money for a new earthquake early warning system.

The warning system uses sensors to detect the initial, less destructive, waves of an earthquake. So it doesn't give much advance notice -- between a few seconds and a minute.

But politicians argued that's enough for a doctor to stop a complicated surgery, a train driver to put on the brakes, or a family to move away from the windows.

Andy Maguire / Flickr

The new federal budget sent to the president's desk over the weekend included $5 million for an earthquake early warning along the West Coast. 

The proposed early warning system can't predict earthquakes. It's designed to give a heads up about strong shaking coming from a distance. It has worked because electronic signals can travel faster than rumbling over the surface.

Depending on how close you are to the epicenter, U.S. Geological Service geophysicist Doug Given said you could get an alert anywhere between ten seconds to a minute in advance.

Oregon Legislature

Oregon's state capitol building could soon undergo a massive renovation. It's a project so big, lawmakers would have to use a temporary capitol for more than three years.
 
Senior project manager Tary Carlson says the idea is to help the Depression-era capitol building withstand a major earthquake.

"When this was built 76 years ago, they did not design for lateral forces of a seismic event such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone," Carlson says.

And so what would be left if the Big One hits?

"A pile of rubble," Carlson says.