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Community Comment

Could it happen here?

Good morning, Netizens…


The year was October 17, 1989, at 5:04 PM. I was standing in the San Francisco International Airport waiting to catch a plane to Seattle, when the ground began to shake. In the aftermath, I saw the damage throughout most of the Bay Area caused by the 7.1 earthquake including the collapse of the Nimitz Freeway and the damage in the Marina District of San Francisco first-hand, and it formed a lasting impression upon me.


Over the last week, we have witnessed earthquakes throughout the Pacific Ring of Fire, which encompasses from New Zealand, Java and Sumatra approximately up through East Asia and Japan, across the land bridge to Alaska and from thence down the West Coast of the Americas to Antarctica. These quakes ranged from 8.0 or higher down to 4.0. The massive tsunami wave that hit portions of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga was caused by an underwater earthquake which was rated as an 8.0 to 8.3, and a second quake near Sumatra and Indonesia which was rated as 7.9 on the Richter Scale.


The damages and loss of life throughout the region was incredible.


The Cascadia fault line, which passes through portions of Western Washington which has been active in the past, and if such a quake as hit Samoa were to occur, what impact would it have on our lives here in Spokane?


According to the USGS predictions, were an 8.0 to hit the Cascadia fault line, life, such as we know it to be in Seattle and the surrounding area, would quite possibly be severely impacted, including the possibility of tsunami waves which could reach all the way to Hawaii or beyond. Damages could easily reach into the billions of dollars with commiserate loss of life. Depending upon location, much of the Seattle-Tacoma region could be severely damaged, if portions were not eliminated entirely, such as on the mud flats where the soil liquifies easily. 


And Spokane? Here is where it gets a bit speculative. Would we feel an 8.0 centered in Seattle here in Spokane? Most-likely. However, a great deal depends upon whether such a quake in Seattle could “set off” a quake of say 4-5 on the Richter Scale here on our own fault lines? That could hurt us.


Loss of power for days, perhaps even a week.

Damage to the water system throughout the city with resulting loss of water.

Telecommunications breakdown throughout a broad region.

Street and freeway disruption and/or damage.

Disruption of the railroad system, especially through the downtown core and the High Bridge trestle.

Loss of human life.


Could such a scenario happen in Seattle? Could it happen HERE? Are we prepared? Having seen first-hand what they have done for Earthquake Preparedness in California, I would say we are not.


Dave


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