Earthquake News

Preparing for the megaquake, and afterwards.

The megaquake and tsunami that hit Japan two years ago are still having a hard time healing. The Pacific Northwest, which faces a similar catastrophe, is considering actions to take over the ensuing decades to prevent a massive earthquake from sending the area into a lasting economic slump.

Japan, the country with the best seismic defenses in the world, was shaken by a huge earthquake and tsunami that is similar to those that may someday hit the Pacific Northwest. The country will need another five to ten years to recover. There are still around 320,000 individuals living in temporary accommodation. Mountains of trash still need to be removed.

However, Scott Miles, director of the Resilience Institute at Western Washington University, notes that Japan is recovering considerably more swiftly than Washington and Oregon will in the event that the next Cascadia megaquake occurs anytime near.

Miles is assisting in the direction of an ambitious project to strengthen the Northwest's capacity to recover from seismic disaster and prevent an economic and social collapse that could impair the area for years to come.

The most thorough estimates of the harm anticipated from a significant earthquake and tsunami have just been finished by teams in Oregon and Washington. For the first time, people are focusing on the days, weeks, months, and years that will come rather than just the immediate aftermath.

It is impossible to avert all of the loss and destruction that will occur to us, Miles stated. The things we haven't been doing is currently considering long-term recovery.

Plans for resilience in both states outline a 50-year strategy for improving infrastructure, utilities, and structures while also preparing for the worst.

According to Tim Walsh, the hazards head for the Washington Department of Natural Resources, "a lot of this stuff can't be done immediately." However, we wish to begin.

Although the cost of the upgrades is not known, the reports present a bleak picture of what will happen if the region does nothing.

According to estimates, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake on the offshore Cascadia Subduction Zone would cause $49 billion in economic damage in Washington and $32 billion in Oregon. The March 11, 2011, earthquake in Japan had a magnitude of 9.0.

There could be up to 10,000 fatalities from a Cascadia-style earthquake and the wave it will cause, in addition to tens of thousands of injuries.

utilities and companies

The subduction zone ruptured last in the year 1700, more than 300 years ago.

Over the previous 10,000 years, there have been hundreds of earthquakes, with an average recurrence of roughly 500 years, according to scientific research. However, the time between some of the previous earthquakes was as small as two centuries.

Businesses will start fleeing the area after the next major storm has passed if electrical power, water, and telecommunications services aren't restored in two to four weeks, according to Kent Yu of Degenkolb Engineers, who served as the chair of Oregon's resilience planning.

If there are no jobs, people will leave and towns will deteriorate, creating a vicious cycle.

In effect, a "lost generation," according to Oregon's assessment, "a policy of business as usual indicates a post-quake future that could consist of decades of economic and population decline."

According to Washington's assessment, it might take one to three months to restore power supplies to 70% of normal following a severe earthquake on the Seattle Fault or another shallow fault that runs across the state.

Up to three years may be needed to repair toppled transmission towers.

For weeks to months, there will be a disruption in the water supply and sewage treatment. Residents should anticipate to wait in line for water trucks and use portable toilets for several months to a year in sensitive locations like the Duwamish and Kent valleys, where shaking can liquefy soils and damage pipelines.

It will take one to three months before phone lines and Internet service are restored to normal. People won't be able to use ATMs to withdraw cash if there is no power.

The majority of Alaska's food supply is carried through Seattle, thus it will be in danger if ports sustain significant damage.

Within a week, the Washington State Department of Transportation anticipates being able to open at least one lane for emergency traffic on Interstates 5 and 90 in the Puget Sound region. However, complete highway rehabilitation will take several years.

One takeaway from the analysis, according to Yu, is that it is absurd to stockpile enough food and water to last three days.

"At least two weeks must be spent preparing."

The interconnectedness of so many things, according to Miles, was another eye-opener. Before the roads are rebuilt, crews won't be able to repair the electricity lines. However, without gasoline, road workers cannot move. Additionally, without energy, it is impossible to restart telephone and Internet services.

However, Yu noted that Japan's experience demonstrates that many of the economic effects may be diminished. It is entirely feasible.

Japan is more ready

In Japan, older, more seismically vulnerable sewer and water pipes have been replaced for decades.

Therefore, disruptions were fixed in a matter of days or weeks.

Miles stated, "We still have barrel pipes in Seattle that are 105 years old, and we don't have a proactive program for upgrading that kind of equipment."

Numerous extra high-voltage transformers were also available from Japanese power firms, as well as portable power substations.

The largest transformers, however, which are prone to damage and essential because they scale down high-voltage energy so that it can be distributed, are rarely kept in reserve by utilities in the United States.

Replacements would need to be constructed abroad after a quake, which might take six months to a year, according to Miles.

According to the Washington study, the state's main priority is education. Washington, unlike Oregon, has never tested the seismic soundness of all of its schools.

The Oregon investigation, which was mandated by the state Legislature, discovered that there is a significant danger of collapse for half of the state's school buildings.

According to Miles, it's critical to get schools up and running as soon as possible for the benefit of both the community and the pupils.

Businesses cannot run if everyone is required to stay at home and watch their children.

The Washington paper, which will this week be delivered to members of the state Legislature's budget committee, was written by more than 100 contributors from business, government, academia, and other sectors of society.

Walsh added that Gov. Jay Inslee was briefed on the study.

Yu emphasized that fifty years span several political generations.

However, the task will eventually be completed if Washington and Oregon start incorporating some of the reports' recommendations into their long-term plans right away.

How is an elephant eaten? At first, he said, "in small steps.

To deal with this elephant, we must have a plan.

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