Pacific northwest stages drill to prepare for massive tsunami

Here’s something that the government came up with which is actually a good idea. Or at a minimum, it’s not a bad idea and it’s in line with the proper role of our elected officials. (Try not to faint from shock.) Next week, residents of the Pacific northwest will be taking part in a joint government/civilian drill to prepare for the day when the Cascadia fault line in the Pacific ocean gives way. (And the general consensus in the scientific community is that it’s coming sooner rather than later in geological terms.) When it does, the result will be the definition of a very bad thing. (AT&T Network News)

Imagine a devastating earthquake and tsunami have cut off Pacific Northwest coastal communities. Phone and internet service have collapsed. Ham radio operators living on the stricken coast fire up their radios, contact emergency managers and report on the magnitude of the disaster so that no time is wasted in saving lives.

This is the kind of scenario that will be rehearsed during the second week of June in a massive earthquake and tsunami readiness drill that has been developed by the U.S. government, the military, and state and local emergency managers over the past few years to test their readiness for what — when it strikes — will likely be the nation’s worst natural calamity.

The June 7-10 exercise is called Cascadia Rising. It is named after the Cascadia Subduction Zone — a 600-mile-long fault just off the coast that runs from Northern California to British Columbia.

This is a subject which has fascinated me for a while, likely because I spend far too much time watching documentaries on the Science Channel, Discovery and the other cable geek networks. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is of particular interest to the United States precisely because of its location. We’ve come a long way in terms of being able to track and forecast tsunamis after a major undersea quake such as the one which wiped out most of Indonesia several years ago, with sensors floating in both the Atlantic and the Pacific to measure fast moving waves. Good work on getting that system up and running, folks.

But with Cascadia, those types of warnings aren’t going to do a lot of good, which makes me wonder what emergency procedures they’ll be running drills on in Seattle and the rest of the communities up and down the coast. The fault line is only a short ways off the coast and if the geologic record is any indicator, when it decides to snap it does it in a big way. We could readily be talking a magnitude nine earthquake which will shatter much of mankind’s wonderful constructions along that region. But then, perhaps less than thirty minutes later, a wall of water like something out of a disaster movie will come roaring ashore and wipe out everything in its path.

That’s barely enough time to clear out a gas station, say nothing of the major population centers from northern California to the Canadian border. From the projections I’ve seen, the dead would likely number in the tens of thousands at least and the infrastructure will be pretty much wiped out. No power, no cell towers, no running water, and whatever isn’t collapsed or underwater will likely be on fire. So what sort of precautions are they taking? As I said, you’re not going to get any significant number of people to high ground in that amount of time so I assume it’s mostly rescue and recovery missions. Ham radio is a great start, but I assume they’ll be telling people how to have a bug out kit ready and some stores of food and potable water to keep them alive (assuming they survive the initial onslaught) until they can be evacuated to some intact territory.

I hope this receives some decent media coverage and the results are reported nationally. I realize we’ve got more than enough to worry about with terrorism and everything else, but this is a very serious threat and we’ve been given more than adequate warning. A little preparation could go a long way before this particular disaster strikes.


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