City Journal: Off the Richter Scale: Can the PNW Prepare?

Here is another long article on preparing for a major CSZ earthquake from City Journal – Off the Richter Scale: Can the Pacific Northwest prepare for the cataclysmic quake that’s coming? Here is a choice excerpt:

…Local governments can’t possibly stockpile enough food to feed millions during a disaster; they aren’t, in fact, stockpiling anything. People will have to feed themselves until FEMA arrives, and the agency won’t be on the scene in a day, or even a week. Not a single road will be passable. An entire region 100 miles wide and 600 miles long will be ravaged. Many Americans have bemoaned the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, but we’ll have hundreds of de facto islands in the Pacific Northwest. Small towns will be cut off, especially in the coastal regions, battered by tsunamis and separated from major population centers by mountain ranges. So the states are partnering with the U.S. military to provide rotary-wing aid drops from Chinooks and Blackhawks onto track fields at schools and similar locations.

Local governments once told everyone to have at least three days’ worth of food on hand that can be prepared without gas or electricity. They have since raised the bar to two weeks. Is that enough? “I don’t trust the federal government to feed me on Day 15,” I say to Phelps. “I don’t either,” he replies. “I openly share your skepticism,” says Jeremy Van Keuren, community resilience manager at PBEM, “but we don’t want to scare people.” It’s hard to encourage citizens to be resilient if they find the prospect too overwhelming. “And the quality of aid we expect to receive at the end of that theoretical two weeks is questionable.” At least it takes four weeks to starve to death…

Emergency management officials know that being prepared for the traditional three days isn’t enough. They know two weeks isn’t enough, but they’re afraid people will tune out if they say to prepare for longer. Don’t be afraid to be prepared.  That people turn off isn’t news in the emergency management field. In the six year old video below, starting around the seven minute mark, an emergency management professional talks about how they’ve stretched preparedness to seven to ten days from 72 hours because that is all that people can handle. She says all the experts say that isn’t long enough.

Risk of Skyscrapers Collapsing in CSZ Earthquake Higher than Thought

New research from the University of Washington has determined that buildings in the Puget Sound lowlands and Willamette Valley will shake more than previously thought in a 9.0 Cascadia fault zone earthquake. Existing high-rise buildings may have a 20-25 percent chance of collapse.

Seismologists and structural engineers associated with the M9 Project at the University of Washington used supercomputers to run dozens of three-dimensional simulations of a magnitude 9.0 rupture of the offshore Cascadia fault zone. UW professor Jeff Berman said the modelling showed enhanced shaking in the vast, sediment-filled basins beneath the Puget Sound lowlands and Willamette Valley. Affected cities include Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, as well as Portland and nearby Tualatin, Oregon.

Berman said when “The Really Big One” hits, the geology of these basins could magnify seismic energy through what he called the “bowl of Jello effect.”

“If you shake a bowl of Jello, you can get the Jello to move a lot faster than the bowl,” he explained in an interview. “That is exactly what is happening in the basin. The ground motions are coming in and you’ve got this bowl that is not as strong and stiff as the surrounding volcanic rock underneath.”

Existing high-rise buildings that were built to minimum code standards have approximately a 20 percent, and maybe as high as 25 percent, probability of collapse, Berman said…

 

Citylab: Vashon Island Community Prepares for Disasters

The Vashon Island community has spent years working to be prepared for an emergency/disaster situation, going as far as forming a non-profit organization – VashonBePrepared – to coordinate the disaster preparedness organizations on the island. From Citylab.com, here is an excerpt from Preparing for ‘The Big One’ in an Isolated Island Town.

…[T]he island community has been building up its emergency preparedness efforts for nearly two decades. The work was initially kicked off when Joseph Ulatoski, a retired brigadier general and island resident, started asking who was responsible if a disaster struck. His questions led to a small group of locals meeting monthly to figure out exactly how they would handle such a situation, Wallace says.

“As time went on, it became clear that we needed to be more organized, structured, and also that we would be in a form that could be recognized by people,” he says.

The result was VashonBePrepared. Today it’s a non-profit, FEMA-sanctioned coalition of the island’s disaster preparedness organizations, including CERT and Voice of Vashon. Its purpose is exclusively to prepare the island for an emergency by helping to coordinate these organizations; it doesn’t actually play a role in real-time response efforts.

“It is a coalition to organize these partner groups to be efficient, avoid redundancy and duplication of effort, and inspire each other to move forward with all these different programs that each of us are running,” says Wallace, who is also the vice president of VashonBePrepared’s executive committee.

One of these key partner organizations is the Neighborhood Emergency Response Organization. Similar, in a sense, to neighborhood watch groups, its leaders have organized hundreds of households into neighborhood groups so they can get to know each other and thus be more likely to help one another if an emergency hits…

Ham radio operators in the emergency operations center radio room. (Courtesy of Rick Wallace)

Click here to read the entire story at CityLab.

California Wildfire Housing Crisis

In what could be a preview of they type of crisis that may be seen in the event of a CSZ earthquake in Washington or Oregon, California is facing a humanitarian crisis in the wake of recent wild fires. Tens of thousands have been evacuated from their homes and 26,000 Paradise residents are now homeless. Norovirus has broken out in three different evacuation shelters. Zero Hedge has consolidated information from several sources in “Situation Growing Worse With Every Passing Day”: Cali Wildfire Sparks New Housing Crisis.

Making things worse, norovirus has broken out in at least three evacuation shelters, requiring isolation tents to try and contain its spread.

As the Sacramento Bee notes – “the situation is growing worse with each passing day.”

Enafaye Nine-Rowe, a member of Chico California Conservation Corps, and California Air National Guard Sgt. Manghirmalani walk past an isolation tent at East Ave Church in Chico on Friday. Daniel Kim dkim@sacbee.com

This is on an order of magnitude beyond what we thought was one of the worst disaster recoveries we would be faced with,” said Kelly Huston, deputy director of governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Emergency Services.

After the Camp Fire erased most of the town of Paradise, destroying more than 9,800 residences, emergency services officials are dealing with what some say is an escalating humanitarian crisis with no quick solutions. Some evacuees will be able to return to unburned homes. Most, now hunkered in hotels, staying with family and friends, or stuck in evacuation centers or unauthorized camps, have no home to return to, and are left wondering where their future lies. –Sacramento Bee

“Wallywood”

Many residents have turned to makeshift communities where sanitation and safety are top concerns. In particular, hundreds of evacuees have been squatting at a camp in a Walmart parking lot, “a ramshackle village some inhabitants call Wallywood, a sardonic mash-up of their location and reduced circumstances,” reports the Bee.

Oregon: No Coastal Hospitals Likely to Be Functional After Large CSZ Quake

A new Oregon State Department of Geology report concludes that “no hospital facilities are likely to be functional due to the expected severity of a magnitude 9 Cascadia earthquake and tsunami damage. Seismic vulnerabilities include building structures; non-structural components that are part of the building as well as equipment; and the limitations of on-site utilities such as power and water. Four of the eleven hospitals are located in the tsunami evacuation zone and face difficulties with tsunami planning. ” The hospitals were constructed before CSZ earthquake expectations were known, and suffere from inadequate seismic resilience.  There are worries about fuel and water accessibility post-quake in addition to the possible damage from the earthquake and tsunami. The hospitals are expected to take over three years to recover from such a quake.

Download the DOGAMI report here (pdf)