If you have ever taken the time to actually read those newspaper articles about the likelihood of a major earthquake off the Pacific Northwest coast, then you’ve read about tectonic plates. Tectonic plates are those giant puzzle pieces that make up the earth’s crust, that are constantly in motion, rubbing against each other and creating havoc when they collide or try to slide past one another. The colliding and sliding past isn’t so bad, it’s when they collide, push, build tension, then suddenly release that causes an earthquake. If the sudden release is at sea, then a tsunami is generated and we all remember watching the videos of Japan’s tsunami after their earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Even as we speak, two tectonic plates are entangled in a dance off our coast that will one day result in a cataclysmic upheaval which will result in an earthquake the likes of which we have never seen.
In January 1700 a similar quake rocked the entire northwest. That was 100 years before Lewis & Clark found their way to the mouth of the Columbia River. Before any white man showed up with a clipboard to keep records of what happened. The Japanese, were of course keeping records and recorded an orphan tsunami which wiped out a portion of their coast, washing at least one fishing village out to sea. It wasn’t until just recently estuary core samples revealed major tsunami activity along the Oregon and Washington coasts precisely at that same time. It has been determined the entire coastline of Oregon and Washington had dropped anywhere between three and ten feet. Farther up north red cedar stumps can be found in salt water marshes along the coast.
Everybody knows red cedar trees don’t grow in salt water so logic says “something” had to happen to lower the landscape enough so that those stumps are now surrounded by salt water.
Some of those same experts have determined that the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate is pushing its way under the Continental plate. This part is normal, but when the plates get hung up on each other, there is a tension generated which bends the entire plate. Some have likened this to pushing a fishing rod along the ground until it hangs up on something. Sooner or later something lets go and great energy is released. Such will be the case when the two plates off our coast let loose. I should also add that the experts stress this is not a matter of “if”, but most certainly a matter of “when!”
This set of facts is the best reason I can think of for prepping. When this quake strikes, there will be no roads in and out of our entire region. Closed bridges, blocked highways and busted pavement will shape our travel plans for weeks, maybe months. Grocery stores will be sold out within hours of the event with no means to restock. Electrical grid down for weeks on end and emergency responders unable to answer your 911 calls which aren’t going through anyway because all cell phone systems are down as well. One account even suggests that our hospitals won’t be up and running for three years!
Now is the time to store up some food, supplies and check out your camping gear and make some plans. Is that old camp stove still working? Lantern, candles, extra water? If you have a generator, will it start? Do you have enough fuel to run it as long as you need it?
As always, send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can check out previous columns on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster, and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.