A whole hell of a lot of people saw this article on the New Yorker yesterday, all about how Cascadia is overdue for a massive earthquake and it’ll destroy Seattle and OH GOD OH GOD WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE.
(Which, I note, is a VERY cheerful thought to be having when you’re on your way to work in downtown Seattle, let me tell you.)
If there’s anything dealing with my years of medical crap has taught me, though, it’s that big scary shit freaking me out becomes slightly less scary if I can get data and figure out a way to begin to deal with it. Dara and me, we do like us some data. So we got into talking yesterday afternoon about possible appropriate steps to take. In my specific case, this means “start building up an emergency stash of thyroid meds”–because I can do without all the various vitamins and supplements I take if I have to. But the levothyroxine? NOT OPTIONAL.
And we’d have to think about stuff like “do we try to retrofit or sell MurkSouth?” and what steps we can take if the region’s actually out of commission for more than a couple of days. Likewise, I got into thinking about exactly how fast I could haul ass up the hill from Big Fish, and whether I could make it past I-5 in thirty minutes on foot.
But, being the geeky sorts of people who like data, we also went digging for more. I found a book Full Rip 9.0 by Sandi Doughton, which goes into a lot of the history of seismic science in the region. I’ve checked it out digitally from the local libraries and am now reading through it. I’m about five chapters in, and it’s described in depth a lot of the efforts involved in nailing down when the last massive earthquake happened, and what they can extrapolate from that as to when the next one might occur. It seems pretty solid so far, so if you have any interest in geology and seismic science, you might get a hold of a copy.
Dara also found a couple of PDFs to check out:
Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquakes: A Magnitude 9.0 Earthquake Scenario, by the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup
King County Liquefaction Hazard Map
And today, some local earthquake experts have an AMA going on Reddit, answering readers’ questions about earthquakes in the region and disseminating more data about what we could actually expect, what measures are already in place for disaster mitigation, and what reasonable steps ordinary people could take to make it through. Notably, one of the people answering questions on this AMA is the author of the aforementioned book.
As I’ve told folks on Facebook, the takeaway I want to have here is less “OH GOD OH GOD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE” and more “okay yeah make DAMN sure we have a disaster plan in place and otherwise go about our daily business”. Facebook friends have also pointed out quite correctly that it ain’t like the rest of the North American continent doesn’t also have any number of other ways to kill you–tornados or hurricanes or blizzards or volcanos, to name a few. Or, for that matter, other earthquake regions, because if the New Madrid fault ever fires off in the Midwest, that’s going to send Memphis sliding right down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico. So you could be all “WHELP there goes my plans to move to Portland”, but you’d also have to worry about what could kill you anywhere else you’d move, so.
Because seriously, if we all spend too much time worrying about the shit that could kill us in our places of residence, we’d never leave the house. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve got shit to DO.
That said? I’m going to definitely finish reading Full Rip 9.0.
ETA: Additional useful links spotted in the Reddit AMA:
Seattle Emergency Management Plans (and, relatedly, Earthquake Retrofits done after the 2001 Nisqually quake)
Regional Catastrophic Plans for the State of Washington
ETA #2: Fixed the broken link to Sandi Doughton’s book, since I noticed some bad hits coming through on my Google Analytics. Oops. Sorry about that!