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  •  The Next Big One (8+ / 0-)

    Seattle Times: The next giant quake: It’s coming and here’s how

    The earthquake that lashed the Pacific Northwest in 1700 ranks among the mightiest the Earth can yield. Scientists today call it a megaquake — a magnitude 9 monster that ripped the full length of the offshore fault where seafloor and continent collide, and unleashed a killer tsunami. Only a few seismic disasters in modern times have approached that level of fury.

    No one who saw the videos from the 2004 Indian Ocean megaquake and tsunami will ever forget the wall of water that pulverized cities and muscled through resorts as if they were made of cardboard. More than 200,000 people died. The force of the fault rupture made the Earth wobble on its axis.

     In March 2011, an offshore fault ripped loose off Japan. The magnitude 9 quake shoved the island of Honshu eight feet to the east and triggered a tsunami that reached the closest shores in 20 minutes. A nation whose leaders thought they were prepared for the worst watched in horror as waves poured over sea walls and swept nearly 20,000 people to their deaths. Nuclear reactors crippled by the flood melted down and spewed enough radiation to turn the surrounding countryside into a no man’s land.

    For Northwesterners, the images from Japan of doomed men and women running from the waves and tall buildings engulfed by water resonated in a visceral way. Even the world’s most earthquake-ready nation was no match for the kind of blow that had struck the Pacific Northwest more than three centuries ago — and which geologists now know will strike again someday. When it does, it will roil a human landscape that has undergone a tectonic shift of its own. The region called Cascadia is now home to more than 15 million people and several of North America’s most vibrant cities, businesses and ports.

    “The ‘Big One’ in the Pacific Northwest has the potential to be the most costly and destructive disaster in the history of the United States, both in terms of loss of life and economic damage,” said James Lee Witt, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “The long-term economic impact could alter our entire economy.”

    This is the single most event that I fear will happen in my lifetime.

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