Could a catastrophic earthquake really destroy Seattle? Risk warning raises new fears

July 2015SEATTLE The last earthquake of roughly magnitude 9 in the Pacific Northwest happened 75 years before the United States existed. One day, possibly in the not-too-distant future, the Earth’s crust will again convulse in a megaquake. What will happen then will dwarf any natural disaster our country has ever experienced. This week in the New Yorker, Kathryn Schulz, who lives in Oregon, scared the living bejeezus out of us by describing the aftermath of the coming Cascadia megathrust earthquake in gut-wrenching detail. Think of the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami that sparked the Fukushima disaster—only the Northwest is nowhere nearly as prepared as Japan was. A word of caution if you read the article: If you live in Seattle, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to sleep outside tonight.
Here’s a telling excerpt: By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable. Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”
Seattle’s excellent alternative weekly, the Stranger, emphasizes the main takeaways from the story: The earthquake will be really bad, the tsunami will be worse for many people, this event is now overdue, and the Northwest isn’t prepared for it. So, how accurate is this doomsday scenario? Did Schulz exaggerate any bits? Should you start hoarding Tillamook cheese and Black Butte Porter? Should we start a petition to the NFL to relocate the Seahawks to Omaha? Thankfully, this is why we have Reddit. On Tuesday, a group of Northwest earthquake experts, including Washington state seismologist John Vidale, answered reader questions on Reddit’s “IAmA” channel. The discussion generated more than 800 comments.
One main theme that emerged from the discussion was that yes, an earthquake of the magnitude Schulz describes could happen at any moment, but that she took a bit of poetic license in describing the aftermath, especially the tsunami threat to Seattle and Portland. There was a fairly desperate question asking the experts to highlight inaccuracies in the Schulz piece (another commenter described Facebook posts from worried parents considering home schooling their kids for fear of them being crushed or drowned by a tsunami). Vidale said: “Communications may black out, transportation may grind to a halt, stores conceivably could run out of goods for a while, but that doesn’t constitute ‘toast’ in one’s mind.” In a separate interview, Vidale said the article was “a little Hollywood” but otherwise pretty accurate.
The experts repeatedly emphasized that the risk to Seattle from a megaquake-triggered tsunami was “insignificant,” in part because Seattle is protected by the Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound. In Portland, which is 100 miles from the coast but still relatively close to sea level, there’s little chance the tsunami would travel up the Columbia River with enough force to do significant damage. But directly on the coast, it’s a vastly different story. People will be fully exposed to any tsunami. And there, based on where the major fault lines run, the earthquake will be so strong it will temporarily overcome the force of gravity, flinging houses (and people) into the air. In Seattle, the shaking will likely be strong enough to topple at least one skyscraper (but not the Space Needle). Portland would be even worse off, the experts confirmed. The most frightening thing I learned from the Reddit discussion was that, counterintuitively, a smaller quake would probably only increase the pressure on the fault—boosting the chances of a megaquake. And there’s no way around the fact that a very, very big earthquake will hit the Northwest eventually.
But when? Vidale said that the chances of the worst-case scenario happening in your lifetime, if you’re planning on living another 50 years or so, is about 15 percent. That’s probably a better way of looking at the recurrence statistics than on an annual basis. Historically, the frequency of major earthquakes in the region is about one every 300 years, which means we’re overdue for a megaquake if you average the past 10,000 years of Northwest geology. But the spacing between past magnitude-9 quakes was between 200 and 900 years. If the fault system maintains that pattern, the next big one could happen again tomorrow or in the year 2600. There’s no way to know. –Slate
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27 Responses to Could a catastrophic earthquake really destroy Seattle? Risk warning raises new fears

  1. Sue says:

    Welcome back, dude! You been missed.


  2. Bobi Becker says:

    I have been following and researching all the EQ info for several years. Anyone whom thinks that this is not going to be destructive can go jump in the lake…. I felt the 7.2 EQ that happened in Mexico, several years ago, in Bend Or and people felt it in Washington as well as California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho…. Where it happened in Mexico is close to 7 or 800 miles away…. So what are we going to feel being 100 to 150 miles away from a 8 or 9.0 EQ? Nothing is EQ proof East of the Cascade Mountains and not much is EQ proof West of the Cascades…. Just look at the Japan Quake…..does this not show us much of anything??? All I can say is everyone needs to be prepared for whatever disaster can happen…..People will panic and the highways will be in gridlock….that is whatever ones are not damaged….. The estimate of 13,000 fatalities is very lean and I do believe it will be much higher than that….


  3. Rajiv says:

    You think that this is a real possibility?


    • As “unthinkable” as it is, I think it’s a real possibility. We can only hope and pray warning signs will precede any type of large catastrophic event like this.

      Liked by 1 person

    • DANIEL says:

      If you want to tell me the exact time that major quake happened I can see if I have a match for it between now and 3003 which is all my calculated arguments allow on this computer. Next year watch up to 5 Indian quakes kill 100,000 or so people. They have to be mentally retarded not to do the simple interpolation based on the Maharashtra and Gujrat quakes. It runs from January 2016 to August 2016. The exceptions will be quakes in the Kuriles that may kill Russians instead of Indians.


  4. Tatiacha says:

    There was so much fear mongering in that story it was sad, things like; “the earthquake will be so strong it will temporarily overcome the force of gravity, flinging houses (and people) into the air.” pure BS the faultline is 50-70 miles offshore no one will be near the epicenter. WIll it be a devastating quake, of course but the media is going into some bizarre over hype about it.


  5. George says:

    Vidale said; “..that doesn’t constitute toast in one’s mind” when talking of a coming earthquake and the associated tsunami. Being “in” the toaster has a lot to do with your mode of thinking.


  6. George Biete says:

    Everyone should chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Dai Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws of the High sanctuary of the Essential teaching so all the cataclysmic events in the world will be eradicated. There is no other solution.


    • Stephen says:

      That doesn’t even make sense to most of us.


    • Caroline says:

      No thank! That’s translates as Buddhist garble of “I dedicate my life to the wonderful mystic law of cause and effect.” God is in control and we play out our lives loving or not loving Our lord Jesus Christ. The solution is Love God.


      • Yellow Bird says:

        The Author of All Things offers the only True solution, HE is the Source of the Law of Cause and Effect. Only the Great Creator is worthy of our worship & praise, not this temporal law or any other. It is HE Who has put into place every law in our temporal universe, and if HE so chooses HE can certainly unmake every one of them as well.
        In HIM Alone do we all live, and function, and have our very being. Our times are in HIS Hands- even these so very troubled Final Times. If you chant at all, let it be to HIM and not to any part of HIS creation, and do so in humble recognition of personal need.


      • Daniel says:

        I seem to recall something in the Bible about God sending misfortune upon the just and the unjust. Now also in the Bible we find Galatians 1;8 as a probable justification for the Crusade some Christians want after some Church burning. Well the text reveals Islam as having an evil source, but also condemns Enochianism and Mormonism for the same reason. Have a good look then picture Crusaders blasting away in Saudi Arabia and bringing the Kaaba back in pieces as sovenirs, but also turning into Utah where an angelolotrous religion has taken root virtually a clone of Islam. I don’t know why people don’t get Haj points for going to Salt Lake City. Coke or Pepsi? Do you know you HAVE TO WORK MIRACLES FOR HAVING CLAIMED CHRISTIANITY BUT NOT BELIEVING YOU WILL BE MADE TO WORSHIP SATAN? Tricky. Being Christian is harder than it looks. If you truly believe miracles are possible but try to find this out while you are living. IT IS NOT EASY BUT IS SIMPLE.


  7. Dennis E. says:

    Yes, a possible a 9.2 according to reports that could set off several other quakes from this event to the east coast. Also, it is being reported that fumes seeping out from wells in the LA area indicate that the source could be from the earths mantle….Surprising scientists that a fault could be that deep.

    Do not sleep……..wake up………we live in a world of change…….


    • sharilynne says:

      Agreed Dennis E. I live in So California – Burbank and Valley area, and I have been smelling sulfur for weeks. This is a precursor of something greater.


      • DANIEL says:

        If matter is coming out from the mantle a volcano can be expected. Just plug a steam package into that and you don’t need nuclear reactors. People want 24 hours notice plus an epicentre use the VAN system of Patiotis Varotsos it could be linked in with power stations as they have Earth connections and it will need a bit of electrical filtering but if you are sending current into Earth you can get a reading on its potential which needs to be traced to a peak above the forming epicentre.


      • DANIEL says:

        You ought to buy a gas mask with alkali absorber pak for the sulphur dioxide also a fireproof blanket can help with the pyroclastic flow and a safety helmet with the spindle bombs and sometimes you get snow on a volcano so look forwards to the skiing when you get an eruption imminent green condition of course. Volcanoes add character to an area. You could get your electricity from one. Indonesia has a lot of places evacuated and the same is starting to happen in South America and atomic weapons ought never to have been tested underground it looks like slow chain reaction. Somebody check for thermal neutrons in Basalt. We could have practical reasons to go to Mars.


  8. Daniel says:

    There is one method of universal value to predict things. INTERPOLATION. In a Laboratory you run “standards” solutions of known strengths and then you plot a graph. Now for the same weight of an unknown substance in solution under the same conditions you measure the conductance or transmittance and apply that to the graph and you got a reading of concentration of the unknown. With an earthquake there are energy states and corresponding effects. I have applied the methods of Raphael somewhat extended to predict so far 800,000 human deaths. Start with a blank book and note down reported events where when how big. As you go fit in planetary adverses. After five years the mess starts to fit together and certain planetary patterns repeat an event to a tenth of a Richter point. It is Snail Watching writ large. If you start now you will be able to predict future events. You can always look at my published predictions on the Yahoo Groups site and download aspectaria up to 3003. I don’t know it all and the forecasting needs sharpening up. The method is (news today aspects today) then (same aspects again? what happened?) and keep at it sometimes you have to add an extra rule for exceptions, for instance the five quakes in India due near can alternately happen some in India some in the Kuriles. A Mars in Scorpio adverse on Mercury does not happen every two years as Mercury has a different period from Mars and next year it is feast after famine due to multiple retrogradatiions. Five aspects. Five very likely Indian quakes that will destroy five Indian cities from January to August of 2016. If you apply my methods from the beginning you will notice the quakes and the aspects and be all set up to predict the next Indian quakes but by then 100,000 Indians will have paid their lives to enrich your knowledge so please backtrack using data from 1900 on and read up what happened when, find out for yourself, and phone up any friends you care about in India. I have compared the Plinian eruption of Vesuvius with Krakatoa and Mount Saint Helens and there is a characteristic pattern for a cataclysmic volcanic event of a build up of adverses. One of those happened last week and seven airports are closed by volcanic dust. The only force 9 quake I have had to study was the Indian Ocean one and that involved the usual Mercury/Venus conjunction but with Mars included by parallel you can learn all this predictive stuff and be threatened with jail get it right and cause heart attacks and maybe keep your cool and not enjoy it too much when all those idiots ignore you and pay with their lives. We have to look at Government appointed Viziers to give advisory forecasts and synchronize them with planned evacuations and timely warnings. You knowing more than your Government is maybe legal but not loved.


  9. Katnea says:

    I don’t understand why Seattle and Tacoma are trying to push for the same early warning system that Japan is using? Seriously, how can tacking on an extra 2 minute *head for the hills* warning, onto a 15 minute impact timeline, end up offering these folks a substantial head start survival outcome? After watching the Youtube video clip, it reminded me of when I was living in Houston, Texas, and Hurricane Ike was on the way. Even with several hours advanced warning, the evacuation process became a huge chaotic disaster in itself. The news showed miles and miles of bumper to bumper traffic where vehicles only advanced 1- 3 miles in an 8 hour timeframe! Therefore one can only imagine what will happen when thousands of panicked people all attempting to drive to higher ground in a 17 minute timeframe, no less, will turn out?

    And yes, it is truly disconcerting to me whenever I hear about how the “Big One” is due to hit the coastline of Northern California and Washington State. My oldest son, along with his wife, and two young children all live in San Francisco, California. (Unfortunately) And even though they are well aware of the ongoing warnings, (insofar as living in a high risk Earthquake/Tsunami region) they still refuse to move inland. In fact I don’t even broach the subject about them moving inland anymore. As it stands, my children pretty much think I’m one of ‘those’ people who wears a tinfoil hat just because I frequent a ‘heads-up’ websites such as this one. And I’m okay with that as well.

    I’m the type of person who rather be informed about what’s going on within the world, then not. Thus I absolutely rely on this website to keep informed. I for one appreciate the fact that this website offers the type of news that other mass media TV channels wont cover. And not only that, I’ve also come to realize, that this website tends to attract some very insightful people who offer some provoking comments, and/or additional links, that expands my knowledge even more so! Thus I proudly accept my tinfoil hat title from them! ; )


    • Aaron Thompson says:

      They mentioned in the article examples with the Japan early warning system. A 30 second to 120 second early warning can make a big difference with the number of lives saved. In Japan the early warning system automatically shuts down railways and will also alert hospitals to stop surgeries. It also automatically opens elevator doors and firehouse doors. As well as trigger alarms to warn the general population.

      Those few seconds might not sound like much, but in an actual emergency, All this can make a big difference with the number of lives saved. Unfortunately here in the US there is no early warning system like this. But I would think it would be something very desirable to have when it is actually needed.


      • DANIEL says:

        You are looking at the P wave system they also use one in the United States. A VAN system gives you a 24 hour warning. As you look like having a volcano punch through the crust you had better get gas masks fireproof blankets and safety helmets. All the bridges will collapse so you can need a hovercraft for evacuation or a compact balloon to get clear.


  10. Mark says:

    I’m a believer that FEMA should be evacuating people NOW. If it’s imminent, Why are they waiting? People’s lives are at stake! And usually people will not move until a greater force gives them impetus. It’s the government’s responsibility to protect the people. Denial / Normalcy Bias IS fatal.

    Same for Moore, OK…(?) where two F-5 tornadoes hit.


  11. Mikevel says:

    There will be a time of trouble such as there never was. Has Daniel 12 begun? Some people think so…………..


  12. aaronwt says:

    Just a minute or two warning can make a huge difference. Here is an excerpt from the article.

    “…Compressional waves are fast-moving, high-frequency waves, audible to dogs and certain other animals but experienced by humans only as a sudden jolt. They are not very harmful, but they are potentially very useful, since they travel fast enough to be detected by sensors thirty to ninety seconds ahead of other seismic waves. That is enough time for earthquake early-warning systems, such as those in use throughout Japan, to automatically perform a variety of lifesaving functions: shutting down railways and power plants, opening elevators and firehouse doors, alerting hospitals to halt surgeries, and triggering alarms so that the general public can take cover. The Pacific Northwest has no early-warning system….”

    Those features would make an early warning system very desirable. Since the earlier a warning you get, the more live that can potentially be saved.


  13. AineEithne says:

    Hi A- We are all happy you are back!! I use your sites too for a one-stop shop of good information. Especially enjoy reading Utopia.
    I live just north of Seattle and a hair east of I-5 (ocean is <5 mi as the crow flies).

    Has anyone ever considered that the Puget Sound looks like a big Bath Tub? I wonder if the enclosure would make it more safe or perhaps more dangerous…


    • Thanks for AineEithne. Good to hear from you. Yes, Utopia is one of my favorite books too.

      Stay well,


      • Northwestjeff says:

        Hi Alvin and AineEithne , I live in Seattle and I also have intimate knowledge of many of her buildings. I have thirty years as a structural iron worker building the skyline. I cannot imagine what a 9.0 would do to Seattle because its beyond my my ability to envision. Truly horrific lets put it this way.
        Seattle and all low lying beachfront in the Puget Sound basin will suffer what is called a seiche and this is the bathtub effect. Its not nearly as powerful as a tsunami but still very devastating.


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