As I sit down to write, I make note of today’s date; January 27. It was on this date in 1700 the last major Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake unleashed its energy on the Pacific Northwest. It was one hundred years later when Lewis and Clark arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River. At the time of the quake, the only residents were First Nations people and they had no means of conveying events to their descendants other than storytelling. Some native stories tell of a giant wave that put canoes in the treetops and other tales of destruction caused by a gigantic shaking. It is believed the landmass dropped by as much as ten feet during the event. At the mouth of the Copalis River in Southwestern Washington is a salt water swamp containing several cedar stumps. Conventional knowledge says cedar trees don’t grow in salt water, therefore the only logical conclusion is this grove of trees was once on higher ground and when the quake struck, the high ground dropped to sea level. An analysis of the growth rings on the trees narrowed down the date of the quake and confirmed suspicions.
The reason scientists know the exact date is because an “orphan tsunami” struck the coast of Japan on that date. An orphan tsunami is one which has no earthquake associated with it. Several fishing villages were wiped out and thousands of lives lost. Later scientists were able to connect the data and determined the tsunami was caused by a Cascadia Subduction quake off the coast of Washington, Oregon and Northern California.
Seismologists have determined by taking core samples from coastal estuaries there have been some 41 large quakes in the region over the past 10,000 years. That’s an average of one very major seismic event every 242 years. If you do the math, we are now 319 years since the last quake making us several decades overdue.
Municipalities, county governments and state agencies are all making preparations to be able to survive the next big quake. Private electrical utilities, along with many public entities, including the U.S. Postal Service, all have plans to quickly resume operations following a disaster. One state agency planner I spoke with recently informs me their vehicles (and they have several) are now equipped with a disaster kit contained in a backpack. Each pack includes items for shelter, safety, food and water. The packs are evaluated yearly and various essential items are added. In addition, every vehicle carries a comprehensive first-aid kit. Most employees receive training and are certified in caring for the injured.
My point is, government agencies are taking the threat seriously. Most communities along the coast have identified tsunami zones, escape routes and plans are in place to deal with the aftereffects of a large earthquake. Every hospital is required to have disaster drills and most medical facilities have temporary tent-style shelters ready to erect when needed. One hospital combines an annual drill with a free, drive-through flu shot clinic. Not only are hospital staff trained in emergency procedures, the public is being conditioned as to where to go and what to expect. While at the same time, getting a free flu shot. All these things will save lives.
Send your questions and comments to email@example.com. Previous columns are on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is an author, pastor, and freelance writer. His book, “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” is available on Amazon.com, barnesandnoble and other online booksellers.