Clallam draft Hazard Mitigation Plan open to public review

Cascadia earthquake cited as county’s greatest threat

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Emergency Management’s draft Hazard Mitigation Plan — a document that identifies disasters and vulnerabilities in Clallam County — is now available for public review.

The final draft plan was made available Monday and identifies the greatest threat to the county as a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. The 1,049-page document describes disasters the county could face from human and natural causes and addresses a host of mitigation strategies that can be used before disaster occurs.

The plan will remain available for review until Nov. 29. After the county addresses comments and makes any needed changes, the plan will be submitted first to the state for review and then to the Federal Emergency Management Administration for approval. It would then be adopted by the Clallam County commissioners for approval.

The plan was developed by Clallam County Emergency Management personnel and a coalition of representatives from the cities of Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks; the Jamestown S’Klallam and Lower Elwha Klallam tribes; and other entities including fire districts and the Port of Port Angeles.

The plan “assesses the potential impact of all prioritized hazards to community members and property and provides mitigation strategies and actions to reduce such risks,” according to the plan. “The [plan] prioritizes these strategies and includes an implementation plan to ensure strategic actions are carried out.”

The plan is a required update to the county’s expired 2010 plan and is expanded to account for natural and human-caused hazards. According to the plan, Clallam County has received 20 major disaster declarations, including five that have occurred since the 2010 update.

They include several severe storms, flooding and snow; the 2001 Nisqually earthquake and the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980. It identifies potential natural hazards as earthquake, wildfire, windstorm, winter storm, landslide, flooding, tsunami and drought. The plan lists human-caused hazards as disease, active threats and hazardous materials incidents. The committee’s top concern was a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, which officials have said would devastate the region. The next highest hazard the region faces is a non-Cascadia earthquake.

“Earthquakes pose a widespread hazard along the north side of the Olympic Mountains,” the plan says.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone has produced earthquakes measuring greater than magnitude 8 at least seven times in the past 3,500 years, with intervals ranging between 140 and 1,000 years, the document says. The last major earthquake was 300 years ago. The earthquake will likely cause “high to severe” damage to airports, utilities, communication systems, hospitals, public safety facilities, roads and bridges, schools, government and law enforcement buildings and shelters, according to the plan.

The group met several times over the last year and held public forums in 2018 and 2019 in Port Angeles, Forks and Sequim and polled visitors at the 2019 Home Show in Port Angeles and the Clallam County fair in August. The plan is available under the “current issues” tab on Clallam County’s website at clallam.net.

Those who review the plan and would like to comment should email Undersheriff Ron Cameron at rcameron@co.clallam.wa.us or Emergency Management Coordinator Anne Chastain at achastain@co.clallam.wa.us.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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