The Oregon Coast will experience a devastating earthquake and very likely a major tsunami—the only question is when.
We are on borrowed time.
A fault runs along the Oregon Coast. There have been 41 significant earthquakes off of our shores in the last 10,000 years — the last massive one was estimated at 9.0 in 1700.
“The shaking will be very strong. Your safety from falling objects (trees, buildings, shelves, etc.) should be your first and only immediate concern,” says Travis Hagan, a Ph.D. candidate at OSU. He’s studying ways to protect the power grid before and after a major disaster. “Second, evacuate from tsunami hazard zones immediately. Leave behind anything that will slow you down. A tsunami from a nearby earthquake could reach shore in just a few minutes.”
“Third, make sure you’re in a safe area,” he says firmly. “Buildings, roads and bridges may be damaged or destroyed and ready to collapse. If you have natural gas service, check for leaks, and leave the area if necessary. Also, avoid downed power lines.”
Oregon Resilience Engineer Yumei Wang is passionate about her work building resilience to natural hazards. She’s been to Chile, Thailand, Algeria, China and Japan after terrible disasters, to study what works and what doesn’t: “No one is over-prepared,” she reports. “Everyone I talk to after such an event wishes they had prepared more.” A must, she says, is water: “Even more than food, you ABSOLUTELY need water to survive. Make sure you have stored water, water filters, ‘life straws,’ or purification tablets ready.” Yumei makes sure family members have evacuation “go bags” packed with essential supplies – she even gives them as gifts.
“Almost everything runs on electricity,” Travis adds. “This includes cell phone communication, land lines, internet, and water treatment systems. Following the disaster, the only available communication will be over radio (AM/FM, VHF, etc.). Keep one ready with extra batteries, especially if you live outside of a town. Think about what you must have that runs on electricity, and plan now for how you will power it.”
“Building and maintaining an electric system on the Oregon Coast is very challenging,” explains Central Lincoln’s General Manager Randy Grove. “High winds and corrosion are our system’s most common enemies, and we keep them in mind when designing and constructing our electric facilities. We’ve also analyzed where our vulnerabilities and risks are during a major earthquake/tsunami event. Our system stands up very well and we’ve continually improved the reliability and resiliency of service to our customers. However, the impact of a Cascadia-magnitude event will be severe. Our system will definitely sustain major damage.”
“We buy all of our power from the Bonneville Power Administration,” Randy adds. “There are three BPA transmission lines that serve the entire Central Coast. A study by the BPA indicates all three will sustain damage. Without these lines, there will be no power to the coast…please be prepared. If you depend on electricity for life support, make certain you always have a backup ready to operate that equipment.”
“Electricity here comes through the I-5 corridor, so that area will need to be restored before power here is on,” Travis says. “Some coast residents will be without power for weeks or longer.”
“Preparation is key to survival,” he adds soberly. Yumei agrees. “Everyone should practice what to do October 17th—the Great Oregon Shakeout drill.”
Tsunami evacuation route maps: tinyurl.com/tizmaps
Go bag checklists: ready.gov/build-a-kit