Earthquakes

Matt Cooper / University of Oregon

Any parent of a rambunctious youngster can tell you trouble might be afoot when things go quiet in the playroom. Two independent research initiatives indicate there is a comparable situation with the Cascadia earthquake fault zone.

Max Kaufman / Alaska Volcano Observatory/University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute

Most volcanoes rumble before they erupt, but Washington and Alaska researchers say a big recent eruption was preceded not by a rumble, but a scream.

Alaska’s Mount Redoubt blew its top several times in 2009. Leading up to many of the explosions were a series of little earthquakes—not uncommon for an active volcano. But these quakes began to accelerate, one after another, like a drumbeat building to a climax.

Rob Griffith / AP

The Northwest hasn’t had a killer earthquake since 1965 – and it’s been three centuries since anything massive shook this region. That’s how New Zealanders felt, until two years ago, when a quake knocked their third largest city to its knees. 

Lessons from Christchurch, NZ, and other Pacific Rim cities, are resonating at a meeting of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, in Seattle this week.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland architect Ben Kaiser has proposed a way to protect school children from earthquakes and save school districts money.

Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

The Puget Sound region is experiencing a record “episodic tremor and slip” event, according to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

U. S. Geological Survey

What would you do if you knew a major earthquake was about to strike in 10 seconds? Some scientists say even a few moments’ warning could save lives, and they’re setting up a system that might soon give Washingtonians time to act before the shaking starts.

Two major earthquakes last year raised red flags for the Northwest. Some of the damage from those quakes in Japan and New Zealand resulted from a phenomenon called liquefaction. This is when the ground turns to jello or quicksand. Transmission towers topple, buildings sink and utility pipes break. Now, geologists in the Northwest have mapped the spots most likely to liquefy here in an earthquake.

This summer, the sound of hydraulic jacks reverberates through upscale neighborhoods near Tokyo Bay. Look closer, and you'll notice some of the homes here are tilted.

Columbia University/Earth Institute

Updated 6/18/12, with comments and links from whale advocates.

An expensive science mission off the Washington and Oregon coasts has been scaled back, at least for now, out of concern for orca whales. A research ship is using blasts of sound to create maps of a major earthquake fault, which is considered the greatest tsunami risk along the U.S. Pacific coast.

The Associated Press

If you live in the Northwest, it's hard to escape the knowledge that the possibility of a major earthquake is real. 

Yet, far more than half of residents here are not prepared for such a disaster. Despite frequent campaigns encouraging homeowners to have at least a 3-day supply of emergency water, food and first aid on hand, authorities assume only 30-40 percent of us actually do.

Columbia University/Earth Institute

One of the world’s most advanced research ships will be cruising along the Washington and Oregon coasts this month – to look for clues about giant earthquakes. 

A zone that runs parallel to the coast – but deep beneath the sea – is known to have unleashed mega-quakes in the past, similar to the one that caused the giant tsunami last year in Japan. The Cascadia fault zone runs about 700 miles alongside Vancouver Island, Washington and Oregon.

Chris Gladis / Flickr

Geologists have discovered two previously unknown earthquake faults – and possibly a third – near Bellingham. The scientists working for the U.S. Geological Survey believe the shallow faults are capable of spawning damaging tremors.

A research grant announced Tuesday will allow seismologists to take the first steps toward an early warning system for earthquakes in the Northwest. An operational system is still a long way off, but it could eventually resemble the computerized warnings pioneered in Japan.

Back in March, some Japanese residents got an alert via cell phone or a TV screen pop-up. The alert warned them that severe shaking would begin within seconds.

Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network director John Vidale says an early warning, even of less than a minute, gives time to prepare.

"somecanuckchick" / flickr.com

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake occurred about 73 miles off the coast of Vancouver Island at 12:41 this afternoon. There are no reports of damage or injuries. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police dispatcher in Tofino, British Columbia, said most people there barely felt the quake. 

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) says it has inspected area bridges and all appear undamaged.

For years top scientists have said a big earthquake near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is highly unlikely in our lifetimes. Now, a new geological study is being published, and what it says is shaking up assumptions.

Courtesy Ecola Architects, PC

If you’re near the coastline and a major earthquake strikes, the advice as always is to scramble for higher ground. But sometimes, high ground is far away. For example, if you’re in Ocean Shores or Seaside, Ore., the best option could be to head for the rooftop of a sturdy building, if there is one.

In Westport, and communities along the Northwest coast,  the horrible and gripping images of destruction from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami are still top-of-mind. In this fishing and beach resort town, retiree Linda Orgel is one of hundreds of coastal residents spurred to become better prepared. That interest is being channeled into planning and design meetings for a possible string of manmade refuge towers.

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