I have been obsessed with the Cascadia subduction zone for close to a decade now.
I have read countless articles and reports so I can understand the impact this potential devastation may have on my family here in Portland and also my family residing in Coos Bay.
During my research I was always fascinated with Dr. Robert Yeats, professor emeritus of geology at Oregon State University. I recall hearing of his earthquake “nonsense” in the 1990’s. My parents dismissed “Dr. Doom” as rubbish; however, my late grandmother swore that Coos Bay had an earthquake when she was growing up. She spent a lifetime within a two block radius in Coos Bay and she showed me the sidewalk crack (that’s still there BTW) that allegedly appeared after a tremor during her upbringing. It was a bit of lore in my family, however, in 1991 I was in Albany with my grandparents and while on the phone with my mother I hear “The house is swaying! We are having an earthquake!” And they did. It was a magnitude 6.6 on July 12, 1991 off the coast of Coos Bay. Everyone (but Dr. Doom) was stunned.
Perhaps Grandma was right.
Deep down, I knew Dr. Doom was on to something.
Fast forward, a few decades and along comes writer Kathryn Schulz. Bravo, Ms. Schulz. You have the attention of the Pacific Northwest and I am hopeful your article will save lives in the long-run.
Dr. Doom never had the audience and now the message is being heard loud and clear.
Thank you – many members of my family are finally listening… I can’t thank you enough.
I am hopeful your message will save many lives throughout the northwest.
I would like to applaud geologists for always looking to improve our reporting and forecasting for a 9.0 earthquake.
One thing to note, the state of Oregon re-forecast their tsunami maps after the Japanese earthquake. I assume they took into account how the water flowed in Japan and compared it to the topography along our coastline. For instance, before 2008 the map essentially said the people of Coos Bay would be affected along the beaches (which are a distance from the actual town) and the bay would possibly have a surge similar to the 11-foot tides in the winter months (with 11-foot tides in Coos Bay, the water will reach Highway 101 slightly but not much).
After 2011, the Japanese earthquake showed a more aggressive tsunami and US geologists realized this could happen along our coastline. So they reforecast. Now, a tsunami in Coos Bay can reach all the way out into Libby through the sloughs that feed from the bay. It seems crazy… I would have to drive 15 minutes to get to a beach from the area yet a tsunami will wind its way through various sloughs, tributaries and marshes overflowing into parts of some secluded inland areas. Following the geologist’s logic and looking at the land and understanding the area (my grandparents owned the large ranch in the Libby area where the tsunami inundation zone essentially “ends”) – it makes absolute sense. It’s marshy most of the year even during the summer months. This is conjecture on my part, but the land likely dropped from the 1700 earthquake making it a marsh similar to some parts of Anchorage after 1964. The terrain is similar in texture.
The same goes for a tsunami that might reach Coos Bay’s Blossom Gulch elementary school – which was illustrated in the state’s re-forecast after the Japanese quake. Again, it seems outlandish since you can’t even see water from the grade school but I appreciate the geologists taking into account what happened in Japan and forecasting how that would look along areas such as Coos Bay. If you live there and understand the lay of the land – it’s logical and makes sense. I assume it’s the same for other coastal communities.
Thank you to the many subject matter experts and researchers who are working to save lives.
Marshfield, Oregon (now Coos Bay) circa 1920 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, most of my family is from Coos County and boy do they find me annoying. I swear I can start a conversation about how so and so’s son is doing on Varsity basketball and quickly steer the conversation to “Did you know the Tsunami wave will reach all the way to Mingus Park and Blossom Gulch?” I know they get off the phone with me, shake their head, and say “she is at it again.” I can’t help it. This earthquake is looming in the distance and no one has a clue when it will strike. This scares me to death.
I have so many family members down in Coos Bay, let alone worrying about my own kids here in Portland, and I feel this topic is worth discussing. I especially find it disturbing that scientists are saying that the quakes that are occurring offshore in the 5.0-6.0 range are a sign of a megathrust quake in the future — where it might be sooner rather than later. I used to think that these small quakes were a good thing because it is releasing energy by taking pressure off of the fault. Not so according to one study issued by the State of Oregon. That’s unfortunately a myth.
So, I continue to plague my family gatherings with, “so do you have a gallon of water per person, per day for over a week…. and how are you with supplies.” (Cue their eye roll) I only do this because I care so deeply about their safety and I need to focus on my own family and I want the peace of mind knowing that my family and friends are safe.
My advice to all in the Northwest. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. (a gallon of water, per person, per day for over a week… and don’t forget about your pets, they need water too)
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