Cascadia Rising: FEMA Prepping for Pacific Northwest Megaquake

This summer the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is conducting a large-scale preparedness drill, simulating a 9.0 magnitude quake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), followed by a Tsunami that could create waves over 50 feet high.

The Drill, dubbed Cascadia Rising, will bring together local and state emergency responders, FEMA, and a number of military organizations and government first responders. The Drill comes as a number of top scientists are warning the Cascadia Subduction Zone is a disaster waiting to happen.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone: Megaquake and Pacific Northwest Tsunami

The Cascadia Subduction Zone Quake Map

The Cascadia Subduction Zone spans from northern California to southern British Columbia. This subduction zone can produce some of the strongest earthquakes on the planet, and researchers are warning that the area could be long overdue for a quake that could exceed a magnitude 9.0.

While most people have heard of the San Andreas Fault line in California, very little attention has been given to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. But when compared to the San Andreas, the CSZ is a much larger and scarier threat.

“Cascadia can make an earthquake almost 30 times more energetic than the San Andreas to start with, and then it generates a tsunami at the same time, which the side-by-side motion of the San Andreas can’t do,” Chris Goldfinger, a professor of geophysics at Oregon State University told CNN.

“This would be like five or six Katrinas all at once, up and down from California to Canada, would be the closest thing I can think of,” said Goldfinger.

Federal, state and military officials are taking the threat seriously and are working to put together a plan that will dictate their response when the ‘Big One’ hits.

The Cascadia Rising preparedness drill will test plans that have been put together over the last couple of years, plans that expect over 14,000 deaths, 30,000 injuries, and the complete devastation of the Pacific Northwest coast. According to planners, the quake could devastate the region for decades and could displace a million people from northern California to southern Canada.

How Bad Could it Get?

Over seven million people throughout the region could be affected by a CSZ Quake/Tsunami.

When the quake hits, the force is expected to cause liquefaction across large areas of the porous region. In areas that aren’t liquefied, the force of the quake could cause huge landslides, devastating destruction to thousands of bridges and buildings, and could cause as many as 30,000 avalanches in Seattle alone.

USGS Danger Zone Map
This USGS Map highlights the areas where land will be most affected by the shocks, causing landslides or liquefaction.

The Tsunami Threat…

As bad as the quake will be, it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. About 20 minutes after the quake strikes, a devastating Tsunami with waves as high as 50 feet will slam the Pacific Northwest Coast. Those in low lying areas will probably not have time to escape the wrath.

Tsunami Forecast Model Animation

The following model was created by the NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC). It’s based off of modeling from an earthquake that hit the area on January 27, 1700, causing a massive tsunami that struck the coasts of Japan.

Emergency Response to the Threat

Officials are planning for a disaster, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The response will include the deployment of civilian and military personnel, and will exceed anything we’ve ever had to respond to as a country.

‘The response will be orders of magnitude larger than Hurricane Katrina or Super Storm Sandy,’ said Lt. Col. Clayton Braun of the Washington State Army National Guard.

According to the Daily Mail:

Worst-case scenarios show that more than 1,000 bridges in Oregon and Washington state could either collapse or be so damaged that they are unusable.

The main coastal highway, US Route 101, will suffer heavy damage from the shaking and from the tsunami.

Traffic on Interstate 5 — one of the most important thoroughfares in the nation — will likely have to be rerouted because of large cracks in the pavement.

Seattle, Portland and other urban areas could suffer considerable damage, such as the collapse of structures built before codes were updated to take into account a mega-quake.

What you can do to protect yourself from a Mega Quake

If you live anywhere near this area or in any earthquake zone for that matter, you need to take earthquake preparedness seriously. There are a number of safety precautions you can take to protect yourself and minimize damages. Here are some tips from my book, The Ultimate Situational Survival Guide: Self-Reliance Strategies for a Dangerous World:

  • Put together an emergency kit/bug out bag that’s filled with the supplies you need to survive an extended disaster. During this type of quake, millions of people could become displaced; you need to have a long-term bug out plan in place.
  • Firmly secure large appliances, water heaters, heavy objects, mounted televisions, and anything that can fall and cause injury during a quake. Most home improvement stores sell earthquake straps, bolts, and other stabilizing equipment.
  • Remove all large items that are near your bed such as mirrors, picture frames, and artwork.
  • Install safety latches on cabinets to prevent them from opening during a quake.
  • Have an evacuation plan in place that includes a way to contact everyone in your family should the quake hit when you’re separated.
  • Practice your emergency evacuation plan on a regular basis. Everyone in your family should know exactly what to do when disaster strikes.
  • Keep your cell phone nearby at all times and make sure it’s always fully charged.
  • If you live in a Tsunami zone, time is of the essence. Practice your emergency evacuation plans and have a number of routes mapped out. The moment you feel the ground start to shake you need to head for higher ground.

50 Comments

  1. B from CA
    May 13, 2016 at 12:42 am

    I stayed in Oregon on the Ocean. There were stations with life preservers in the event of a Sunami and the area was set up with Sunami warning system. Also, I questioned locals about the pretty black rocks. They are left from the mountain blowing up. Yep, the volcano eruption spewed all that black rock from Mount Hood.

    • Joe
      May 13, 2016 at 12:53 am

      Good observation. Most the idiot locals out here have no idea.

      • da willem
        May 17, 2016 at 11:38 am

        this will not be an erupting volcano, mr. educated local.

        • hilary courage
          May 20, 2016 at 7:36 pm

          Mt Hood and St Helen’s are erupting right now….not even to mention Yellowstone

          • Karyn
            May 21, 2016 at 7:42 pm

            They r not erupting…their r small earthquakes..

      • Elfriede Bazemore
        May 17, 2016 at 9:03 pm

        So true! We been preparing in my home, when I say we, I speak of my husband and i. My children all grown and have their own families and when i tell them to work together to be a team, they just say “iam paranoid and if it happens, what can we all do about. And it saddens me.

    • 206yo
      May 18, 2016 at 3:46 am

      30,000 avalanches in Seattle?!

      • 206yo
        May 18, 2016 at 3:46 am

        30,000 avalanches in Seattle is hilarious hahaha theres no snow in Seattle yo

        • C
          May 18, 2016 at 7:16 am

          They meant liquified earth behaving in the same manner as snow. Snow isn’t the only thing that can Avalanche.

        • lynda
          May 18, 2016 at 10:35 pm

          avalanches can be rocks too

          • ed
            May 20, 2016 at 4:35 pm

            (Yo)

        • Bruce payne
          May 19, 2016 at 9:01 am

          Mudslides

        • Paulette Majamay
          May 24, 2016 at 9:25 am

          I recently traveled there, they have steep hillsides which give 4 warnings traveling into Seattle of possible Avalanche

    • Flora Golemon
      May 18, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      We live in central Oregon and we are preparing to help those that will come to us when this happens. It is going to happen, it is not an IF it is a WHEN.

      • Jeff
        May 19, 2016 at 4:01 pm

        According to records, it’s about 75 years away.

        • Duane Light
          May 22, 2016 at 11:48 am

          Actually its overdue by about 80 years.

    • anthony
      May 19, 2016 at 5:45 am

      what about all the accumulated radiation that’s in the pacific after 5 years? that will all wash up for a hundred miles onto the shores contaminating any lands or farms nearby. not to mention this san adreas fault could cause yellowstone to erupt sooner than expected..

    • turtle
      May 25, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      You mean when Mount Saint Helens blew up? :p

    • renee pearman
      May 28, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      No massive rocks were ‘spewed’ from Mt. St. Helens. It was all gas and ash and smoke. I lived in Beaverton, Or. at the time…the wind…thankfully, blew to the East, not towards the ocean. The furthest away damage was the flooding and and clogging of the Lewis River which required massive dredging to clear. If there were black rocks as a result of the volcano, they’d be all chipped away as souvenirs. The only souvenirs you can get are pictures and glass objects made from the ash….which is lovely. Sorry, some local was pulling your leg.

  2. Janet Herrera
    May 13, 2016 at 5:05 am

    Seems it’s a more probable threat than people realize. I have family in Vancouver BC who are clueless and act like it’s some kind of an urban legend!

    • Taelor
      May 18, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      I live in Vancouver and I can say that almost everyone except me is super worried about it.

  3. Karen Joyce
    May 13, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Lots of good info. Definitely want to read the recommended book. I am wondering why nothing is mentioned about the fate of boats at sea between cascadia and Japan.

    • anne apfel
      May 16, 2016 at 10:30 am

      Because a tsunami isn’t actually a big wave like they show in the movies.

  4. CM
    May 13, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Seems to me that more will happen beyond the earthquake and tsunami.

    That level of earthquake may cause Mt. Ranier to crumble and possibly send mud flows toward what would then be unaware people trying to get away from the coast.

    They tend to treat one disaster as being totally unrelated to any other disaster when they are considering consequences.

    Kind of like the trigger points for a financial crisis causing job loss, pensions to collapse under retired folks, home foreclosures and the elderly being forced to sell “fries with that” rather than enjoy the golden years.

    • da w
      May 17, 2016 at 11:43 am

      The “crumbling” is the liquefaction mentioned in the article. I think most people in the area are well aware of the possibility.

  5. Sanpedrojoe
    May 13, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    The tsunami graphic doesn’t do the up river threats justice. Take Portland and Vancouver, WA. They likely will not survive a 9.0. They have no flood walls, nothing. The throat of the terrain immediately inland from the ocean could well heighten the waves and “push” them up river – a Venturi Effect but with hydrolics instead of winds. The other rivers face the same potentially tragic phenomenon. The evidence of the last one is still visible in the differences in the colors of the foliage and the mud deposits, an event some 300 plus years ago.
    The tsunami threat isn’t just aimed at Hawaii, Japan, the Marianas, etc.

    • da w
      May 17, 2016 at 11:49 am

      there will not be enough water to go 80 miles inland from the coast to Portland. the danger to Portland will be the shaking – building collapses, bridge collapse, gas and water main collapses.

  6. grayfox114
    May 14, 2016 at 3:44 am

    Earthquake, tsunami, mega disaster! Not if, but when! And all the preps that FEMA and other agencies are putting together, while good, will be pressed, hard pressed, to do much in the initial stages! I wonder if they are thinking about the fires that will follow, with no way to combat them other than waiting for the tsunami, the people that will die quickly when the power grid goes down, which it will, and the possibility if not certainty of one or more volcanoes going active? Cascadia will be a disaster without parallel, and not just for the Northwest/Northern California! No one knows what other faults might slip and slide when the pressures are released on Cascadia! Lots of speculation, but most err well on the cautious side! Better be well prepped, peeps!

    • da w
      May 17, 2016 at 11:55 am

      I can assure you that they are thinking about all the possibilities, likely far more than you have an inkling about. I know from personal association with the emergency preparedness.

      And the article does say when, not if.

      And yes, get educated and be as prepared as you can.

      BTW a tsunami is not going to put out any fires – it will not reach the fires should there be any.

  7. Jen
    May 14, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    The most important thing will definitely be water. I for one am not going to wait in lines all day long for water rations.

  8. Bean bob
    May 14, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Settle down peeps. It ‘ain’t gonna happen. Worst case the tsunami will produce a halfway decent surfing waves for the local surfers to enjoy. Tsunami? Meh.

    • Mal
      May 19, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      It’s sad that you think it won’t happen, I hope u don’t have a family or someone you need to be protecting because it will happen we just don’t know when

  9. Mildred Walkus
    May 14, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    How much damage or rather how safe are we the north island

  10. Aaron Freeman
    May 14, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    For those of you that have never gone through an earthquake, you’d better listen… I saw the aftermath of Loma Prietta, and let me tell you, people didn’t take that threat seriously, either! You should take some precautions, or suffer greatly for lack of foresight!

  11. Lelah
    May 15, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    I believe it happen. Being prepared for a disaster of any kind is never a bad thing. I’m not saying fear it. Just be ready. I live very close to a volcano off the I-5 highway. So who knows what will happen? Why wait till the last minute for supplies.

    • Jenn
      May 19, 2016 at 1:58 am

      I agree. I don’t live anywhere near these areas but when Katrina hit I dealt with several people affected that were not prepared and wish they would have been for their children’s sake.

  12. Moreaware
    May 15, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Fact of the matter is that agencies that are paid to serve and protect will take care of their families first before coming to our aid. Keep in mind roads may be impassible for days/weeks or months, no electricty to run the gas pumps, credit card machines down and no money available as most of us run around cashless anymore.

    • da w
      May 17, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      the families of first responders are without doubt already prepared and have emergency supplies and plans all in place.

      You are correct about not being able to access money – where wpuld you spend it anyway? If you think your local Fred Meyer is going to be open, you do not understand the potential scope of this situation. Yes, be prepared to possibly be isolated for several months. This will not be the fault of emergency responders. It will be because the nature of the disaster will exceed Katrina buy a hundred fold.

  13. Lorelea Myers
    May 16, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Has anyone taken into consideration that this is prophecy being fulfilled right before our very eyes and it is very serious ? We live in a world where preparedness is where we need to be ! Not worrying about the niceties and material things that we have and concentrating more on the bigger picture !!!

    • Jenn
      May 19, 2016 at 2:00 am

      Amen. Although God said he would never flood the world but prophecies are taking place that were told over 2000 years ago.

  14. Lillian
    May 16, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    What about Alaska? I’ve heard southeast lies along a fault line that could crumble into the ocean!

  15. georgia cummings
    May 16, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    What about central wash ,what effects are we expecting from this?

  16. Liz
    May 16, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Would the water from a disaster such as this flood reach Lewiston, Idaho?

    • da w
      May 17, 2016 at 11:57 am

      absolutely not. many people speculating here have no idea what they’re talking about.

  17. J.f.
    May 17, 2016 at 8:53 am

    If you truely feel our government is here to help, you are sadly mistaken. Protect your own ass. And the biggest fear here IS the government. Just saying!!!

    • dustin s
      May 19, 2016 at 7:16 am

      Agree!

  18. da w
    May 17, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    This may be a far-fetched suggestion since most people don’t have even one extra gallon of water stored, but I strongly recommend that people talk to their neighbors, learn which people have medical skills, and, importantly, who has a shortwave radio…

  19. Marti Reynolds
    May 18, 2016 at 1:45 am

    What effect will it have on the Columbia River….they say the water won’t make it that far inland, but since the Columbia runs into the Pacific, I just wonder what type of impact will result?

    • Al Martinson
      May 18, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      The volume of the tsunami could back up the flow of the Columbia and the islands and other lowlands could see considerable flooding. I would be heading to high ground at once.

  20. Kristine
    May 18, 2016 at 11:13 am

    When do they believe the earthquake and tsunami will happen??

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