Water Cooler
1:05 am
Fri November 5, 2010

On Earthquakes - political and real

The nation is watching the northwest, with earthquakes - political and real - in mind.

One That Didn’t Happen

What on Tuesday looked like a looming shake-up of the political landscape in Washington subsided.  State voters did not rebuke the Democrats in power. Instead, they returned Patty Murray to the US Senate, and gave the ‘D’s’ the majority in both chambers of the state legislature. 

As the slow vote count trickled in Thursday, Dino Rossi saw the writing the on the wall, and conceded to Murray.  In a statement, Rossi warned Democrats to reduce spending, address the national debt, and find bipartisan solutions.

If they don’t, Rossi said, the resulting quake, “won’t distinguish by political party.”

Later Thursday evening, Murray joined a cheering crowd at a Seattle pizzeria to give her acceptance speech. She responded to Rossi’s call for bipartisanship.

“This I know...I'm always able to find .. partners on the other side of the aisle...that's exactly what I intend to do," Murray answered.

The biggest surprise may be the Democrats hold on the state senate. On Tuesday, the Republicans won back three east King County districts where they were once dominant. It appeared they’d take four more. But Democrats are holding those by narrow margins, and will likely retain a 27 to 22 majority.

As a Senate Democrat spokesman told Publicola’s Josh Feit:

“I don’t see a red wave in Washington state.”

There’s still a close race in Snohomish County's 44th District, where incumbent Steve Hobbs leads Republican Dave Schmidt by 200 votes. That race may end in a recount.

One That Will, Eventually

New research adds to the growing evidence that the Northwest's 'big one' is overdue.  Scientists have been sampling sediment in lost tidal marshes along the coast. They show the pattern of mega-quakes and resulting tsunamis that appear to occur every 200 to 400 years along the coastal subduction zone. 

The area from northern California north to British Columbia was 'unzipped' by a massive quake in 1700. That event sent tidal waves as far as Japan and sunk forests along Washington's coast

The new research, reported by Discovery News and MSNBC.com, was led by Canada's Pacific Geoscience Centre. It reveals the southern portion of the subduction area - the place where the North American plate slides west over the Juan de Fuca plate - to produce mega-quakes every 230 years on average. 

Here's a video primer on the subduction zone - quake threats our region faces, from Discovery News.