The Great ShakeOut
IMAGINE A PERFECT morning — whatever that means. Perhaps it means having a cup of coffee with a mountain view.
Above, there are flocks of geese honking their way south through a scarlet sunrise until they slowly fade away.
Mixed with sounds of migration, there is the whistling bugle of the elk piercing through the still air, causing questions to be asked. Is it a bull elk in the rut, a hunter trying to impersonate one or just the ringtone on my phone?
It doesn’t matter. You’re on your way to another full day where no matter what, things could be worse.
What if they were? What if you woke up with no way to make coffee? You had no water or electricity to heat it, because your home was destroyed by the impending subduction event.
The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 600-mile fault that runs from northern California up to British Columbia that’s about 70 to 100 miles off the Pacific coast shoreline.
Native American legends recount the effects of periodic subduction events with stories of a tsunami at LaPush that stretched across the horizon.
The Makah tell of Cape Flattery being isolated by a rising sea.
The S’Klallam say they escaped by tying their canoes to tree tops then floating into the mountains. Archaeologists have confirmed these legends. Tse-whit-sen, a S’Klallam village in what is now Port Angeles, was struck by tsunamis every 300 years.
Geologists say there have been 41 subduction events on our coast in the last 10,000 years, occurring between 190 and 1200 years apart. The last one was in 1700.
The pressure of the Juan de Fuca Plate subsiding beneath the North American Plate has been building ever since then. Scientists are predicting about a 37 percent chance that a megathrust will occur in the next 50 years. This could result in an earthquake of over 7.1, with an estimated 2 to 4 minutes of shaking or rolling, along with an associated 100-foot tsunami hitting our coast in as little as 15 minutes later.
It is not a question of if, but when, the subduction event will happen again.
When it does, you want to be ready for it. That is the point of tomorrow’s Great Washington ShakeOut.
This is an annual event that happens every year on the third Thursday in October at 10:20 a.m. local time, when millions of people across Washington, and around the world, will participate in earthquake drills. The goal is to get people prepared for major earthquakes before, during and after they happen.
I know what you’re thinking. This has never happened in my lifetime and chances are I’ll be dead before it happens again. And you are probably right. But what if you’re wrong?
The Subduction Event will rock your world with sudden back and forth motions of several feet per second, causing the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you. Every object around you that isn’t nailed down could fall on top of you. What would you do?
That is the point of the Great ShakeOut. This year’s theme is “Drop, Cover and Hold On.”
If you feel the ground shaking, get down on your hands and knees before you are knocked down. Cover yourself with something like a table to protect against falling objects that are bound to go flying during the event and hold on until the shaking stops.
After the subduction event, it could be weeks before help arrives. You’ll want to be prepared with at least two weeks of supplies and an attitude that we’ve survived this before, we can survive it again.
Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via firstname.lastname@example.org.