The ‘Big One’ and the Pacific Northwest

 

At odd intervals, I ponder the Cascadian Subduction Zone.

This is a 600-mile-long geological fault in the earth’s fractured crust that lies along the coast of the Pacific Northwest, extending from northern California all the way to Vancouver. The CSZ is a type of fault well-known for causing extraordinarily destructive, 9.0+  megathrust earthquakes. Because the fault lies under a pile of salty H2O, the quake itself will be followed by a huge, catastrophic tsunami. In emergency-prep circles, this one-two punch is known as “The Big One” and … oh yeah. It’s both inevitable and overdue.

And, as one after another of the sober documentaries available takes care to remind us, we are not prepared.

Among my friends and relations, there are a number of persons fully (and vocally) persuaded that “we” must be preparing, now, for a different apocalypse, the one “we” caused through anthropogenic climate change. If we are to survive in any recognizable way, we must, they say, completely and quickly transform the entire planet’s economic, political, and cultural systems

The obstacles to the necessary transformation are clear: Standing in the way are the deplorable, conservative Denialists. And, of course,  the pet scientists, bought-and-paid-for, of Big Oil. But everyone else, all the smart, kind, compassionate, rational, science-believing people are totes, totes on board. 

The Cascadian Subduction Zone earthquake/tsunami is, let’s admit, small beer by comparison with the end of the world: When it comes, it will not wipe out the entire planetary ecosystem.  Still, one could argue that the CSZ presents progressives, in particular, with an opportunity to demonstrate wholesale transformation on a smaller scale. Think of it as a kind of dry-run: the Big One as a test case for the Really-Really Big One.  The target cities, Portland and Seattle, have long taken pride in being ideal progressive communities: high-tech, education-minded, scientifically literate, environmentally-conscious, and high-status cities people boast of living in.

Even if these cities might be burdened with a few small pockets of deplorable resistance, when it comes to the CSZ, there are no deniers standing in the progressive’s way.

True, there will be no “warning signs” for the Big One, no denial-shaking shockers akin to an unusually hot summer or a melting glacier. Still, anyone willing to peruse a bit of YouTube can see for him/her/xerself just what the catastrophe will look and sound like, because what happened in Indonesia in ’04 and Japan in ’11 was extensively videoed.

But it’s unnecessary, really: Everyone knows. And while there may be parents/MAGA-terrorists yelling at the school board about CRT or gender ideology, no parent objects to the Duck, Cover, and Hold drills held in elementary school classrooms. 

Again, these are overwhelmingly progressive-Democrat cities. To a man or woman, then, I’d be willing to bet that all the leaders of Seattle and Portland are Climate Change true believers, who would agree that “we” can and must transform society pretty much in toto. So what exemplary, smaller-scale transformation can they point to? What have Seattle and Portland done to prepare for the merely Big (as opposed to Really, Really Big) One?

Thanks to the example set by Japan, we have a model for the kind of preparation which, while not preventing apocalypse, would result in far fewer deaths and a far swifter recovery. The technology already exists. It’s not complicated.

So why are we still not prepared?

Of course, these cities have done some things. In the past few years, a couple of tsunami towers have been installed in the inundation zone, for example. And there has been talk (don’t know about action) about constructing at least one earthquake-resistant bridge spanning the waterway that separates the low-lying coastal community of Seaside from life-saving access to higher ground. The six existing bridges are expected to fall apart during the quake, but the new one would offer at least one narrow avenue of escape to use in the half-hour window between catastrophic quake and devastating tsunami.

I’ve been following this story for about seven years now, and in that time, I have to say, I have not noticed much improvement. The documentarians continue to intone “we are not ready.” What they don’t say is that, in the last five or ten years, those given direct responsibility for “hardening the target” for this inevitable catastrophe have, instead, been softening up the cities, making them more vulnerable and less resilient.

For instance:

1) In the name of protecting a miniscule number of black arrestees from largely imaginary uniformed bigots, Portland and Seattle have demonized, defunded, and devastated the ranks of their police departments, thus eliminating whole swathes of trained, experienced first responders — the very helpers citizens must depend upon during and after the cataclysm.

Children — because they are children — are very likely to need to turn to strangers for help in the post-catastrophe environment. The school children of Portland are being trained to duck, cover and hold, but they are also being taught to distrust and dislike the strangers who, by their uniforms, would be most easily identifiable as helpful, capable, and trustworthy.

2) Functional, self-reliant, self-confident citizens who identify with and feel affection for the city in which they live and work naturally form the first line of civil and civilizational defense in any emergency. They will be the skilled pioneers required when rebuilding commences in the aftermath too.

City leaders have accused such citizens of -ism and -phobia, permitted demoralizing,  destructive, and expensive riots to go on for months, tolerated the smashing of historical monuments and other shared sites of civic pride, allowed and enabled the takeover of whole city blocks by violent anarchists, allowed the crime rate to rise and encouraged the takeover of thoroughfares, neighborhoods, open lands, and vulnerable downtown areas by the addled, addicted and severely mentally ill.

These progressive leaders are, by their actions, demonstrating that notions of social justice are a far higher priority than preparing for an imminent and expected catastrophe.

When discussions about Climate Change begin, I usually opt out. It’s not my issue, I say. My skepticism about the claims of the Climatistas emerges less from knowledge of the science and more from the behavior of those who claim expertise: They don’t behave like people facing an imminent existential threat. 

I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff — the Obamas’ purchase of beachfront property, “activists” jetting off to Davos for yet another carbon-spewing celebrity schmooze fest. Long before push comes to shove — even when it ought to be easy! Progressives can’t bring themselves to sacrifice anything in the name of what is supposed to be an existential crisis. The carbon footprint cannot be reduced by so much as a toenail’s span and, more than this, even their most arcane, boutique ideological obsessions cannot be set aside.

For some reason, an image of the Polish Duma comes to mind: of them meeting in September 1939 to vote for more restrictions on the activities of the Jews. The German Army was literally massing on the doorstep, and Russian troops were moving into position on the Western flank. And yet…

In progressive-land, the cause of the black trans-woman must absolutely and unequivocally be angrily, even violently upheld,  at the cost of confusing and alienating people who might otherwise be allies, and whose assistance and expertise (even if accompanied by unexpunged -ism and -phobia) will be required to prevent the apocalypse or ameliorate its effects.

If, that is, the apocalypse is real.

The disconnect between stated belief and behavior is, as I say, what makes me inclined to pooh-pooh the climate change apocalypse.

They don’t really have the “science.” If they did, they wouldn’t make such asses of themselves.

But there it is, that bona fide apocalypse, the Cascadia Subduction Zone and the Big One. It’s real, inevitable, overdue, and unquestioned, an existential threat that looms over a huge area of the northwest coast from Northern California to Vancouver. Its existence isn’t a matter for political debate. There are no deniers. Everyone knows, everyone believes. Everyone agrees that we are not prepared.

And yet … they cannot seem to make this — the Big One — the priority.

Would they do better if Portland and Seattle were conservative cities, run by Republicans? Maybe.
But maybe not?

Still, in this context, the most peculiar feature of these exemplars of progressive governance is that they appear to be busily un-preparing. They are, willfully it seems, actively undermining, impoverishing, weakening their social infrastructure, enabling and perhaps even bringing-into-being persons incapable of surviving or of helping others to survive.

I have an image — tragic, really — of the ground beginning to shake and slide beneath the Birkenstocks and Doc Martens of the denizens of Pioneer Square. The skyscrapers start to sway, the old unreinforced-masonry buildings begin raining bricks and shards of glass down upon those rainbow-haired heads. The schizophrenics in their tents incorporate the nightmare into their hallucinations, the drug addicts hurriedly inject themselves, but an activist sets down the Molotov cocktail or can of spray paint and reaches for the cell phone. He/she/xhe will dial 9-1-1. Not to ask the dispatcher (if there is one) what is happening, however. The call is just a reflex. He/she/xhe and they/them … everyone really, will already know. It will be too late.

Published in No Dumb Questions
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  1. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    GrannyDude: So why are we still not prepared?

    Not prepared?  They’ve got signs!

    I saw them everywhere when I drove through Oregon 18 years ago.  That should fix everything. Just like the signs for “Gun Free Zones”.

    More seriously, this is a good post.

    • #1
  2. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    There are stories on a regular basis in the Seattle Times, about the fact that we are not ready.  The normal gist is that there is never enough money to reinforce all the buildings that need reinforcing, business owners will not spend money, and there are so many more places to spend all the (diminishing) funds the city taxes away from its businesses and citizens.  They spend multi-millions on the homeless, which are mostly wasted, and little on earthquake preparation.  And, actually, since most of downtown Seattle is built on fill, not solid bedrock, all those reinforcement dollars would be wasted, too, since the liquefaction of the ground in the “big one” will dump Seattle into Elliott Bay.  We will not mourn the destruction of Seattle very much.

    We are in Everett, well back from Puget Sound.  Our complex has earthquake insurance, but it is very expensive and probably not very affordable for individual homeowners.

    • #2
  3. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Are you a fan of Nick Zentner?

    • #3
  4. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    BDB (View Comment):

    Are you a fan of Nick Zentner?

    Who?

    • #4
  5. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    Are you a fan of Nick Zentner?

    Who?

    Look him up on YT.  You are in for a treat.  

    • #5
  6. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    The normal gist is that there is never enough money to reinforce all the buildings that need reinforcing, business owners will not spend money, and there are so many more places to spend all the (diminishing) funds the city taxes away from its businesses and citizens.  

    I did see an article about the requirement that buildings in Portland that would be unsafe in an earthquake must post signs to that effect. Churches, homes, apartments, schools, businesses…this, it turns out, is racist because some? all? a disproportionate number? of said businesses are owned or occupied by black people.

    I also noted that in one of the documentaries I watched (I’m waiting for a grandchild to be born, so I’m…um…y’know…okay, that doesn’t really explain the fixation does it?)

    Where was I? Oh yes, in one of the documentaries, we learned about a tsunami tower built by one native tribe on what I presume is tribal land. Sadly, another tribe can’t access the resources because the federal government doesn’t officially recognize it, so they can’t have a tower.

     

    • #6
  7. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    GrannyDude (View Comment):
    (I’m waiting for a grandchild to be born, so I’m…um…y’know…okay, that doesn’t really explain the fixation does it?

    Heh.  Sounds like the year 2100 just became real for you!

    • #7
  8. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    GrannyDude (View Comment):
    … we learned about a tsunami tower built by one native tribe on what I presume is tribal land. Sadly, another tribe can’t access the resources because the federal government doesn’t officially recognize it, so they can’t have a tower.

    Ah.   Then we built it, not the tribe.  

    • #8
  9. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    They don’t behave like people facing an imminent existential threat. 

    This reminds me of the allegory of flying on a plane with turbulence.  You need not worry if the flight attendants are still passing out diet coke and cookies.  When their faces turn white and they buckle into their jump seats, hope your prayers are previously well received.

    The same goes for all of these Climate Change Prophets.  When they give up their manses, private jets and other carbon spewing indulgences, I might then listen.  

    In the meantime they are the equivalent of Al Sharpton claiming racism.  

    Losers and Posers. 

    • #9
  10. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Seattle? These clowns can’t even fix a broken bridge for two years or fill the potholes. Not to mention the living disaster of the “homeless” and its supporting industrial-government-NGO round robin funding scam.

    No one could seriously expect the government of these places to do anything pro-actvely, no matter how clear the evidence of need. All they might do is throw some more taxpayer money at some consultants or something.

    • #10
  11. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    I’m sure they’ll address this if they just get a little more money and power and maybe we should just think of the children™. 

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Don’t you worry!  Governor Newsom has appointed a blue-ribbon task force (federally funded and headed by Dr. Fauci) to look into the development of an earthquake vaccine . . .

    • #12
  13. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    I still remember seeing the Mt. St. Helens eruption from Portland. You didn’t need to travel to the State of Washington for a visit, Washington was coming to you.

    See the source image

    • #13
  14. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    That’s the nice thing about living in Colorado. Our Big One is a Yellowstone Super Volcano eruption, in which case, we’re toast. Literally.

    But, some events don’t seem worth surviving to me. There are worse things than death. The post-apocalyptic world after Yellowstone will be continent-wide and even global. I’m not up for zombies. 

    • #14
  15. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    That’s the nice thing about living in Colorado. Our Big One is a Yellowstone Super Volcano eruption, in which case, we’re toast. Literally.

    But, some events don’t seem worth surviving to me. There are worse things than death. The post-apocalyptic world after Yellowstone will be continent-wide and even global. I’m not up for zombies.

    I will try to last a little while. Maybe get a dog and a fast car.

    • #15
  16. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    That’s the nice thing about living in Colorado. Our Big One is a Yellowstone Super Volcano eruption, in which case, we’re toast. Literally.

    But, some events don’t seem worth surviving to me. There are worse things than death. The post-apocalyptic world after Yellowstone will be continent-wide and even global. I’m not up for zombies.

    I will try to last a little while. Maybe get a dog and a fast car.

    And a girlfriend just in case.

    • #16
  17. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    I still remember seeing the Mt. St. Helens eruption from Portland. You didn’t need to travel to the State of Washington for a visit, Washington was coming to you.

    See the source image

    I collected about 5 pounds of ash from the sidewalk in front of my house in Portland.

    • #17
  18. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    I still remember seeing the Mt. St. Helens eruption from Portland. You didn’t need to travel to the State of Washington for a visit, Washington was coming to you.

    n

    We were living in Olympia then, and upon learning of the eruption that early morning,  we immediately (and foolishly) jumped into our car and headed south on I-5, to see what we could see ( a huge plume of ash cloud).

    Got as far as around Centralia or Chehalis, where the freeway was closed, and we were turned back by the WSP.

    Impressive sight, even from a huge distance. By the time we got back home to Oly, we had a half an inch of ash covering our home. Most folks chose not to drive because the ash still circulating could really mess up the vehicle. The gutters clogged with the next rain.  While we had it easy compared to those closer to the blast or in Eastern WA which got a deep blanketing of ash, it was still one of those memorable moments, as in “where were you when.”

    • #18
  19. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    I still remember seeing the Mt. St. Helens eruption from Portland. You didn’t need to travel to the State of Washington for a visit, Washington was coming to you.

    See the source image

    I collected about 5 pounds of ash from the sidewalk in front of my house in Portland.

    I believe you can mail it back COD. 

    • #19
  20. TaleenaS Member
    TaleenaS
    @TaleenaS

    I also remember Mt. St. Helens erupting as a youth in the Portland area, I even have a commemorative ash sculpture hanging about in a curio cabinet. Re: The Cascadia Subduction Zone – I currently reside on an island in Puget Sound and my daughter and I researched what would happen to our house if it hit. Goodbye Forks, Ocean Shores and Aberdeen, basically that side of the peninsula would get HAMMERED. The tsunami would spend most of its energy getting funneled down the ship canal. Our house at the time had a marvelous view of the Port Townsend Ferry and we calculated that the low fields between us and the water would get swamped immediately but we would have time to get higher on The Rock.  Our new house may not have gorgeous ocean views anymore but is on considerably higher ground.  My family stopped teasing me about preparedness.

    • #20
  21. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Sorry I missed this pertinent and scary discussion back when it was posted.

    I know The Weather Channel, or maybe the Discovery channel, featured a program on how a massive tsunami could result from a 9 point earthquake whose source was the CSZ fault. This would affect so many people, including those a great distance from any area actually impacted by the 9 pt earthquake’s damage.

    School children and personnel have drills to practice scurrying to the tops of hillsides should such a tsunami hit.

    Here is a yahoo article written in Jan 2022.  It focuses on the earthquake/volcanic aspects of the future catastrophe. It also focuses on the Oregon area, as it was written by a resident of that state:

    https://news.yahoo.com/next-cascadia-earthquake-could-devastating-190016579.html

    Bridget Good
    January 28, 2022

    Oregon Department of Transportation’s two-year, $18 million I-105 Bridge Preservation Project repaired, repaved and added seismic upgrades to the bridges and ramps between downtown Eugene and Delta Highway on I-105. The work was completed in 2020.
    SNIP

    Forty-six of these mega-thrust CSZ earthquakes have occurred over the past 10,000 years, averaging one every 223 years. The next one will undoubtedly overwhelm local emergency responders. Roads and bridges will be heavily damaged. Most communication systems will be down. The Willamette Valley is expected to go as long as 50 days without natural gas, 100 days without electricity and a whopping 400 days without water/sewer. Responders from outside the disaster area will take time to arrive — how much time will depend on the area of devastation.

    Cascadia megathrust earthquakes appear to have triggered San Andreas earthquakes roughly two-thirds of the time over the past 3,000 years. New research by UC Davis and San Diego State finds that roughly 20% of San Andreas earthquakes have coincided with earthquakes on the San Jacinto Fault. Further research has shown that roughly 20% of CSZ earthquakes have been followed by a Cascade Range volcanic eruption within a reasonably short time frame (days to months).

    Full article at link above

    • #21
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