Japan Quake

OLYMPIA, Wash. – When a massive earthquake destroyed San Francisco in 1906, timber mills in the Northwest went into high gear. They supplied the wood needed to rebuild. Last year, many in the timber industry predicted the Tohoku quake in Japan would cause a jump in northwest lumber exports. But those predictions haven't come true. The recovery after the 3/11 quake is slower than expected.

The Associated Press

HONOLULU — Tsunamis generated by the magnitude-9 earthquake in Japan last March dragged 3 million to 4 million tons of debris into the ocean after tearing up Japanese harbors and homes.

Scientists believe ocean currents are carrying some of the lumber, refrigerators, fishing boats and other objects across the Pacific toward the United States.

One to 5 percent of the 1 million to 2 million tons of debris still in the ocean may reach Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon and Washington and British Columbia, said University of Hawaii senior researcher and ocean current expert Nikolai Maximenko.

Washington milk is safe

Apr 6, 2011
Flickr user purplemattfish/Matthew / flickr.com

Worried about radiation from Japan contaminating milk here at home? The Washington state departments of Agriculture and Health say the latest tests show no sign of any radioactivity in milk sampled in Tacoma and Spokane.

Last week, the EPA announced that trace amounts of radioactive Iodine-131 were detected in a sample from Spokane, but at levels 5,000 times below anything that would be remotely dangerous. Officials say drinking a pint of milk with radiation levels that low would amount to less than half of the exposure you would get in a five hour plane flight.

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.

Ted S. Warren / AP

When disaster response in Japan turns to rebuilding, Northwest timber companies and sawmills should see an increase in exports. But an industry consultant says the slow pace of disaster recovery means those new orders may not come for months. 

Stock prices for some North American timber companies spiked in the immediate aftermath of the Japan disaster. Wall Street anticipates a surge in Japanese demand for logs, lumber and plywood to rebuild homes.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The small amounts of radioactive Iodine-131 found in milk in Spokane has been causing ripples of concern throughout the Northwest. Officials say the tiny amounts of radiation found in the milk were probably blown over from Japan’s stricken nuclear plants.

Just outside the Tri-Cities, Drex Gauntt’s alfalfa fields roll out like a plush emerald shag carpet. One of the ways that cows can pass Iodine-131 into their milk is by eating grass or hay that’s been contaminated with the radioactive isotope. Gauntt says he’s not too concerned.

Jackie Johnston / AP

There's no end in sight to Japan's nuclear crisis. More radioactive water is leaking from Japan's crippled nuclear complex, and traces of plutonium have been detected in soil outside the plant. Tokyo Electric Power says the amount is small and isn't a danger to public health.

Our technology commentator, Strategic News Service publisher Mark Anderson, is keeping a close eye on the situation in Japan. He tells KPLU's Dave Meyer it's like watching a train wreck in slow motion, and this crisis is a major setback for the future of nuclear power.

Odd as it may seem, that’s a big question right now within the aid and development community.

By a simple measure of the number of news stories and organizational appeals out there, clearly the answer is: Yes, people should donate to disaster relief in Japan.

Perhaps the most blunt argument answering the question in the negative has come from Felix Salmon, economics columnist for Reuters, who said simply: Don’t Donate Money to Japan.

I’ve posted on this debate a few times, including an anonymous post from an aid worker decrying the “ugly game” of fund-raisingaround the Japan quake-tsunami disaster.

Others have written as well about the question of whether Japan needs/wants help from outside groups such as Stephanie Strom at the New York Times and Saundra Schimmelpfennig at Good Intentions Are Not Enough.

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The earthquake, tsunami and radiation leaks in Japan are having a ripple effect on the trans-Pacific seafood trade.

In Seattle, Sushi Kappo Tamura chef and owner Taichi Kitamura is worried now that a big chunk of the Japanese fishing industry damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Along with sushi, Kitamura's menu also features some traditional recipes that use Japanese fish.

"Consistency in availability is very important because you have a menu and you have to keep certain items on the menu," Kitamura says.

Kitamura is also worried about the safety of the seafood he imports. South Korea, Singapore and other Asian countries are already testing Japanese food imports for radiation. Japanese authorities say the levels of radiation released from the crippled nuclear reactors don't pose a public health risk. But Kitamura says skittish customers might decide to stay away.

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The nuclear reactor crisis in Japan is prompting more scrutiny of the nuclear power plant near Richland in southeast Washington. Thursday a Seattle-based Hanford watchdog sued Energy Northwest. The group is demanding the power supplier turn over more documents on the possibility of the plant using plutonium for reactor fuel.

Masami Yamamoto / Courtesy JACL Olympia

Rallies, memorials and interfaith prayer gatherings are scheduled around Puget Sound today and through the weekend, as people gather in support of the victims of last week's earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan.

AP Photo

From Chehalis to Chicago, local health food stores are seeing their stock of potassium iodide pills sell out, as public fear over radiation fallout from Japan's damaged nuclear plants continues.

The trouble is the fear doesn't match the risk, say numerous scientists and government officials, both here and across the nation, according to The News Tribune and other reports.

The nuclear crisis in Japan could have repercussions for a proposed nuclear enrichment plant in Idaho. A Congressional subcommittee will hear testimony on nuclear safety, just as other countries re-examine their policies on nuclear power.

NHK via YouTube

You may have heard Washington has an earthquake fault similar to the one that devastated Japan.  While there are many fault-lines criss-crossing western Washington, the only one that bears a strong similarity is under the ocean, parallel to our coast-line.  It’s called the Cascadia subduction zone. 

Sergeant Scott Punch / Oregon State Police

A southern Oregon county battered by last Friday's tsunami is turning to the state and federal government for assistance. High waves caused heavy damage the harbor in Brookings. One local official hand-delivered a request for assistance to the state capitol.

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