Research indicates major earthquake looming for Pacific Northwest

Most structures built before seismic codes instituted; extreme damage predicted

August 13, 2015 |
Research indicates major earthquake looming for Pacific Northwest

Photo: Bob Heims/Wikimedia Commons

Recent research indicates that the Pacific Northwest is due for an earthquake of historic proportions and the area’s building stock is not expected to fare well.

The Cascadia subduction zone runs from northern California to Vancouver Island. Researchers in recent years have determined that the area has the potential for a more powerful tremor than had been previously believed. There was a similar situation in Japan a few years ago.

“The devastation in Japan in 2011 was the result of a discrepancy between what the best science predicted and what the region was prepared to withstand,” according to a New Yorker article. “The same will hold true in the Pacific Northwest—but here the discrepancy is enormous.”

Seismic codes were weak or non-existent more than 40 years ago. “Until 1974, the state of Oregon had no seismic code, and few places in the Pacific Northwest had one appropriate to a magnitude-9.0 earthquake until 1994,” the article says. “The vast majority of buildings in the region were constructed before then.”

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