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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. 

Brian Atwater / University of Washington

The same type of tectonic earthquake that hit Japan - involving the collision of plates that make up the Earth's crust - could happen in the Northwest.  Similar faults lie in the Cascadia subduction zone. 

The head of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington, John Vidale, told The Seattle Times' Sandi Doughton the Cascadia fault last ruptured in 1700.  Scientists believe it generated at magnitude 9 earthquake and a tsunami that may have been bigger than the one that battered Japan. 

If you've had arthroscopic knee surgery for osteoarthritis, maybe you shouldn't have.  And if you've tried any of these treatments, there are questions, too, about whether it was worth it:

A virus outbreak has closed the Seattle Yacht Club's mainstation clubhouse on Portage Bay. Dozens of people who attended the JO Ball and a private party at the end of February became ill with gastrointestinal symptoms. Yacht Club General Manager Steve Hall says the club contacted the King County Health Department, sanitized the kitchen area, and closed the facility until March 12.

Thousands of people are still dying unnecessarily in America's hospitals, according to a new set of quality ratings.  That’s despite a decade of attention to preventing errors. 

More than 20,000 hospital deaths should have been prevented, just among Medicare patients (people over the age of 65), according to a report from Health Grades Inc. of Denver.

Hospitals in Washington as a group are about average in terms of their error rates.

Keith Seinfeld / KPLU

The giant digging machines that will bore twin tunnels from Husky Stadium to Seattle’s Capitol Hill are being assembled at the Port of Tacoma. They're called Tunnel Boring Machines, and they vaguely resemble Apollo-era rockets, lying on their sides. 

And with their current paint-jobs, sporting Sound Transit's green and blue colors, they might be Lego toys, inflated to a surreal scale.


April 12 is the day we'll learn if the Puget Sound region will become home to one of NASA's retiring space shuttles. There are 27 institutions vying for the three orbiters, and Seattle's Museum of Flight is one of the contenders.

Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

If your heart suddenly stops beating, your chances of getting revived are better in King County than in the rest of Washington.

The Seattle area has one of the highest survival rates from cardiac arrest in the country. Now, a new campaign in Washington aims to boost survival from cardiac arrest by 50-percent in the rest of the state. 

Burke Museum

A new species of crab spider was found last spring by Rob Crawford, curator of arachnids for the Univesity of Washington's Burke Museum.  He discovered it on Foster Island in the Washington Park Arboretum. reports a team of students will soon be scouring the island for more information.

Just as intriguing as a new discovery is the question raised by Knute Berger of Crosscut who wonders about the effect a newly discovered spider could have on the Highway 520 expansion.  The highway cuts across Foster Island.


Experts in the northwest warn the deadly earthquake in New Zealand was similar to what might happen here. 

The quake hit Christchurch, New Zealand, a city comparable in size to Spokane, along a fault-line that was unknown until last September. That's when an even larger quake hit New Zealand -- but with limited damage, since it was centered farther from any city. Authorities in Christchurch were predicting the death-toll would rise to 300.

In recent years, scientists have found evidence of shallow faults across the northwest, such as the Seattle fault that runs beneath Qwest Field and roughly follows Interstate-90.

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Java, a 12-year-old, an endangered Sumatran tiger, is leaving his home at Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium to find love at the Dallas Zoo. His keepers tried to mate him with the zoo's female tiger, Jaya, but that didn't work out and she mated with Java's brother, Bali, instead. Jaya gave birth to cubs Bima and Mali last May.

Photo Courtsey of Good Samaritan

New emergency rooms keep opening around western Washington. It's part of a trend.

On Thursday (Feb. 17th), Swedish Medical Centers will open a free-standing Emergency Department in Mill Creek, between Seattle and Everett. And, on the same day, MultiCare opens a new medical tower at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup -- which has the busiest ER in Pierce County. 

It turns out, the busiest ER’s in Washington are mostly outside the biggest cities.

Google Earth

The National Weather Service expects to have a Doppler radar station operating by September on the Washington coast to give forecasters a better look at Pacific storms.  KBKW radio reports that Doug McDonnal with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association said they've always had a blind spot in Grays Harbor County.

Construction should begin in the next few months at the site at Langley Hill in northern Grays Harbor County.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was in Seattle this week, to hear about local efforts to make the medical system more efficient.

Sebelius is in charge of implementing the new national health care law – and defending it. The Affordable Care Act has been under fierce attack by Republicans and their allies. Democrats and their supporters recently hired political strategists to launch a campaign in defense of the law.

At the same time, Sebelius has been trying to sell it across the country, alongside sympathetic mayors and governors. 


Crisis centers for the mentally ill are gaining popularity across Washington, as a way to help people and potentially save taxpayers' money.  They’re an alternative to jails and emergency rooms. 

But these short-term treatment centers are also running into hostility. Potential neighbors are unhappy about being next door to a facility where patients arrive by police car and ambulance, in the middle of a mental health or drug crisis.

In central Seattle, an angry backlash of homeowners is threatening to delay the opening of a proposed “Crisis Solutions Center.” The location is on a block near Rainier Avenue and Dearborn, where businesses and stores give way to single-family homes.  

Gary Davis / KPLU News

You might have wondered -- as you gazed out your sunny window and listened to news of record cold and snow sweeping the midwest and East coast -- is there a connection?

Yes, there is.

"Our weather often is the just the opposite of what it is in the eastern part of the united states," says Cliff Mass, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. 

"When we are cold, like it was just before Thanksgiving, they tend to be warm," says Mass.

The reason we're yin when they're yang, and vice versa, has to do with the jet stream and "ridges" of high and low pressure in the sky, as Mass explains it.

A nurse may have contributed to a baby’s death, during transport to Seattle Children’s Hospital last September, according to investigators from the Washington Department of Health (DOH). An earlier autopsy said the baby died from natural causes, but state investigators are not convinced. They also say the hospital must improve how it monitors medications in ambulances.

National Weather Service/NOAA website

You might not have realized it, but weather forecasts have been getting more accurate for the past ten to twenty years. Forecasters have a lot more precision about when and where different weather systems will hit.  But, this isn’t always communicated very clearly.

You can handle a weather rocket, create a flooding torrent of mud, and learn how to make a cloud inside a one-gallon jar this Sunday. 

It’s all part of a one-day exhibition called Weather-Fest, which pops up once a year as part of the American Meteorological Society annual conference.  The meeting this year is in Seattle, from Sunday through Jan. 27th. 

King County's major medical centers continue jockeying for position in the emerging new health-care world. 

U.W. Medicine and Valley Medical Center proposed this week what they call a "strategic alliance." Valley wants to retain its name, although the news release says Valley would become "part of U.W. Medicine."

Earlier this year, U.W. Medicine took over running Northwest Hospital (in north Seattle), without actually owning the hospital. 

Being a pioneer in adding calorie and nutrition labels to menus at fast-food restaurants has made King County a good place for researchers to visit.

A team based at Duke-National University of Singapore has been watching consumers at Taco Time restaurants, both in King County and in other counties, and found that adding all that info to the menus appeared to have no impact on people's choices. They published their results today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Photo by derekb/Flickr

If those cuts don't sound harsh enough, you can add "low-income" and "people of color" to the headline. 


With massive flooding in Australia in the news, or earthquakes in South America, perhaps it’s no surprise that 2010 was the most deadly year in a generation for natural disasters around the globe.  What’s the worst we might face here in western Washington?


Ever had a summer beach vacation chilled by dense fog? Then you might be interested in new research at the University of Washington. A scientist there is looking at how fogginess along the coast has changed over time. 

Dr. Marius Laumans, right, examining Lynnette Drake, at a Group Health facility
Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Along with egg nog and presents, doctors say families should share their health histories this holiday season.  Health officials say family history is a leading predictor of illnesses and a big gift for loved ones. 


Western Washington can look forward to an added gift of the Winter Solstice: a total eclipse of the moon. The heavenly event begins at 10:32 pm tonight, with the moon in full eclipse from 11:41 pm to 12:53 am, according to NASA.

Gerry Broome / AP Photo

Just when you thought cigarettes were headed for obscurity, along comes the electronic cigarette.  The King County Board of Health is restricting these "e-cigarettes" in the name of protecting youth -- and keeping a stigma against smoking. 

A whooping cough outbreak at an elementary school in north Tacoma has sickened at least six children.  Investigators are looking into additional cases. 

The disease, also known as pertussis, can cause serious illness in young children, especially infants.  More than one-third of infants less than one year old who get the disease must be hospitalized, according to the Tacoma - Pierce County Health Department.  

An "atmospheric river"
UW/Dpt. of Atmospheric Sciences / (

A big rainstorm is headed to western Washington this weekend.  Forecasters say Saturday should start out pleasant, with the rainstorm hitting south Puget Sound in the late morning, and the Seattle area by around noon.

It’s not supposed to be as bad as devastating storms a few years ago, but flooding is likely on some rivers. 

There are a few rivers in western Washington that flood regularly – such as the Skokomish and the Tolt.  This year, you can add one more to that list, a section of the Puyallup River in eastern Pierce County.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has rejected a new rate increase requested by one of the state’s largest health insurers.  It’s the second time in recent months Kreidler has sparred with Regence BlueShield. 

Regence is seeking a 3.7% increase for its Washington customers, including the Asuris subsidiary, starting January first, to cover the cost of new benefits required by the federal health law.  This applies to its individual insurance plans, not to plans provided through employers.