Shaken and Stirred: Northwest Earthquake and Tsunami

Washington 9.0 earthquake--Are you ready? Oregon 9.0 Earthquake--Are you ready?Suddenly the Pacific Northwest is on the national stage for its earthquake and tsunami vulnerability, thanks to a New Yorker article. “The Really Big One,” by Kathryn Schulz, has triggered attention from dozens of local papers and news sites. Yet even before the New Yorker shook the Northwest (pun intended), Oregon Public Broadcasting had been featuring Hart Crowser engineer Allison Pyrch in its “Unprepared” series, to alert the region to the impending disaster in hopes that we will get prepared.

Also, Allison recently gave a presentation for the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network: “Surviving a 9.0, Lessons Learned from Japan and Beyond.” If you are involved in emergency management or just plain interested in massive disasters and their aftermaths, settle in for some powerful visuals and easy-to-follow explanations about earthquakes in Japan and Chile, how the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami will happen in the Pacific Northwest, and what you can to do to be resilient.

Watch the whole “Surviving a 9.0” video to get unusual insight into what’s ahead, or if you’re pressed for time, skip to one of these minute points:

  • 9:00 Jan Castle introduces Allison Pyrch 10:56 Allison Pyrch’s presentation begins with how the Pacific Northwest 9.0 earthquake will happen
  • 14:25 Comparing the Japan and Chile quakes “It didn’t stop shaking for a day”
  • 21:45 Fire damage/natural gas 22:30 Water, wastewater, and electrical systems; liquid fuel; natural gas
  • 24:25 Lifelines/infrastructure/airports “PDX will not be up and running”
  • 28:35 Port damage/economics
  • 31:45 How prepared is the Pacific Northwest? When will it happen? “We are 9 ½ months pregnant”
  • 35:00 What will it look like?
  • 37:32 What you can do
  • 40:30 What businesses can do
  • 42:11 Can you be sustainable without being resilient?
  • 43:33 What about a resiliency rating system similar to LEED?
  • 53:30 Will utilities, transportation, hospitals be useable after the 9.0? “We’re toast”
  • 1:01:30 End of Allison’s presentation; additional information from Jan Castle on how to prepare
  • 1:19:19 How sustainability measures in your home lead to resiliency

Digital Coast Act Introduced to Aid Communities with Coastal Planning and Disaster Response

Digital Coast Website Snapshot

Those of you involved with GIS or coastal mapping may be familiar with NOAA’s Digital Coast Project, which consists of a free, online database of the most up-to-date coastal data throughout the U.S. Established in 2007, this project not only provides essential data, but also the tools and training coastal communities need to respond to emergencies and make sound planning decisions. Due, in part, to its collaborative nature and broad datasets ranging from land use to aquatic habitat to socioeconomics, the Digital Coast has quickly become one of the most widely used management resources in the coastal management community.

Accurate and up-to-date coastal information is becoming increasingly important in the U.S. Coastal watershed counties were home to nearly 164 million Americans in 2010, approximately 52% of the U.S. population. This number is expected to increase by more than 15 million by 2020. These counties also contribute over 58% ($8.3 trillion) of our gross domestic product. As vital as our nation’s coasts are to the local and national economy, they are equally as vulnerable. In the Pacific Northwest, growing demand for coastal development, combined with an increase in natural hazards such as sea-level rise, extreme weather, and flooding events, will continue to exert significant pressures on coastal communities. Storm damage from coastal flooding and erosion result in response costs, lost productivity, and lowered economic productivity that we all pay for one way or another. The Digital Coast Program provides accurate data and integrated information that enables coastal communities to adapt to changing environmental conditions and protect their local economies.

In September 2014, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, with support from Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) and others, introduced the Digital Coast Act of 2014. This legislation authorizes further development of the Digital Coast Project by increasing access to uniform, up-to-date data, identifying data gaps, and ensuring that coastal communities get the data they need to respond to emergencies, plan for economic development, and protect shoreline resources. The bill would provide funding for a national mapping effort of coastal waters that includes improved data on coastal elevations, land use/land cover, structures, habitat data, and aerial imagery, all of which could be of great benefit to Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest. This legislation has been assigned to a congressional committee but it is unclear if and when it will be enacted. However, many coastal planners and scientists view the Digital Coast Act as critical legislation that is needed to help ensure the protection of coastal resources and communities in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the nation.

More information on NOAA’s Digital Coast Project or pending legislation to enact the Digital Coast Act