Arrow-right Camera
News >  Spokane

Doug Clark: Mix crack and pot and you have geologists’ Spokane Fault

The city of my birth is once again being treated like the dopey kid who stuck his tongue to the frozen flagpole.

We just can’t catch a break when our civic image is at stake, it seems.

It’s bad enough the economy’s in the dumper.

But now we’ve got geologists scaring away what few shoppers and tourists we have left by claiming that there’s a potentially dangerous, earthquake-producing fissure running under the Lilac City.

And if that weren’t enough bad news, these high-minded scientists dubbed it the …

Spokane Fault.

Swell. How am I going to learn how to duck and cover when I can barely operate the downtown’s new automatic pickpocket parking meters?

Spokane Fault.

How judgmental can you get?

Couldn’t these geo-meddlers come up with a more respectful way to describe our new crack of doom?

I personally like “Spokane Cleavage.”

That has a little sex appeal that the tourism boosters could put on their next brochures.

Speaking of which, the other night I tweeted the following idea for a revised city slogan:

“Spokane. Near Nature. Near Epicenter.”

So far, this has received a pretty positive response from everyone.

Well, everyone except Boy Mayor David Condon. He just grimaced at me when I pitched it to him during lunch Monday.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking …

“What in the name of God’s Green Bluff apples is the mayor doing having lunch with the likes of you?”

A valid point. And someday soon I’ll explain.

But for now, the larger issue is the Spokane Fault. This will give our burg nothing but bad PR and sarcastic T-shirts, and I’m not the only one who’s worried about this.

“Couldn’t it be called something else?” asked loyal reader Sheri Johnson in an email to me that included her following alternatives:

“Notmy Fault.”

“Your Fault.”

“Seattle’s Fault.”

I’d give Seattle a break, Sheri.

Seattle has enough to worry about, living within the magma zone of that giant active volcano, Mount Rainier.

Trust me. Spokane will ascend to Washington’s largest city about a half-hour after that baby blows.

But Johnson’s other two ideas are worthy for discussion. And I’d pass them on to council members if they weren’t prevaricating and loafing, which is now illegal thanks to their new “sit-lie” law.

Here’s the main difficulty I have with the Spokane Fault:


Think about it. The only profession that allows people to be more vague and inaccurate than geology would be TV weathercasting.

And saying that really does a disservice to the weathercasters.

Tom Sherry’s forecasts at least have a coin-flip’s chance of coming true.

Ask a geologist, “When’s the next big California quake going to happen?”

He’ll furrow his brow and respond, “Oh, definitely within the next hundred or several thousand years.”

But let’s look at the Spokane Fault facts.

Fact 1. Spokane apparently had an earthquake back in 2001. I never felt it. I did, however, interview several residents who claimed they did feel something, although it might have been gas.

Fact 2. Spokane’s alleged tectonic rumbling spurred a frenzy of geologist activity. They stared at charts and wavy seismograph lines almost nonstop for the next 12 years. The three geologists who didn’t go insane finally found something and, after getting drooling drunk pounding shots of Jaegermeister, named their discovery the Spokane Fault.

Fact 3. The main evidence came from airplanes using sophisticated aerial cameras that captured indisputable photographic evidence of a geological abnormality on the North Side.

Fact 4. The geologists, after sobering up, admitted the abnormality “cudda been Hillyard.”

Don’t misunderstand. I do believe in geologic upheaval.

How could I not after witnessing the last Big One?

It struck about 10 years ago, sending a horrific chasm along Havana.

Then, after the dust settled, we discovered that this upheaval had created the city of Spokane Valley.

We all know what a disaster this has been for the poor souls who live east of the divide. They thought having a new city would save them money on taxes and service fees. Suckers.

Still, as skeptical as I am, I believe all citizens – especially you North Siders – should err on the side of safety.

And by that I mean you should all adopt the U.S Geological Survey’s Spokane Fault Survival Plan:

Tie down water heaters and small pets, which can explode and shoot through the roof during an earthquake.

Stockpile a three-year emergency supply of water, Bob Marley CDs and Spam.

As soon as legal marijuana goes on sale, draw out an escape route to the pot store nearest you.

Then kick back, crank up the Marley and enjoy the shake, rattle and roll.

Columnist Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or