Oregon ‘will be toast' when next big earthquake hits

Northwest region is 72 years overdue for next big earthquake, experts say

(Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

KOIN 6 News – PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) - One of Oregon's top earthquake experts predicts the "really big one" will wipe out the entire Northwest. In fact, the area's FEMA director said everything west of I-5 "will be toast".

In The New Yorker article "The Really Big One", Northwest FEMA Director Kenneth Murphy predicts 13,000 people will die in what's referred to as the "Cascadia Earthquake and Tsunami". Another 2,500 people are expected to be hurt in the devastating quake.

The article quotes an Oregon State University scientist who said the odds of the "really big one" are 1 in 10, especially since the area is 72 years overdue.

"You'd be pretty hard-pressed to find a hazard of this magnitude that could essentially cut off lifelines and supply chains and structures for 2 weeks," Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, explained.

According to Phelps, once the "really big one" hits, Portlanders should expect up to 6 minutes of shaking. Then come the landslides, followed by a 50-foot high tsunami. In The New Yorker's article, Seaside's city planner said people there will only have 10-30 minutes to get out.

"Along the coast, it's going to be a bad day for the state of Oregon, that's for sure," Phelps said. "But again, you can't do everything to prevent hazards, but we can try to prevent those hazards from becoming disasters."

Phelps said he recommends having an emergency preparedness kit ready with 2 weeks worth of supplies.

This summer, Portland Public Schools will continue to seismically upgrade its buildings. PPS spokesperson Christine Miles said, "We are upgrading certain parts of some buildings to help improve the outcome if a quake does impact our area." State agencies released a new book with step-by-step directions to ensure they're working together.

"You want to say, in a perfect world this is never going to happen, but historically that just hasn't been the case," Phelps said.

The New Yorker's article also cites an Oregon safety policy group that estimates it could take up to 3 months after the quake to restore electricity. It could take another 6 months to fix major highways in the region and a year for sewer services to get back up to speed.