When the “big one” hits the coast: Coast 9, Valley 7, Bend 5 on Richter
A presentation was given this week at Bend’s Tower Theater where geologists, emergency preparedness officials and the Red Cross convened to talk with a packed audience about the eminent earthquake the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Oregon Coast will create – WHEN it happens. One panelist characterized the situation as an earthquake that is 9 months pregnant.
When the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hits the Oregon Coast it will trigger a catastrophic earthquake (9+ Richter) inland for about twenty miles, a strong earthquake (7+ Richter) throughout the Willamette Valley and a moderate earthquake (5 Richter) in the Bend region.
There will be total devastation on the coast – bridges gone, roads impassable, older buildings flattened, even new ones horribly damaged including hospitals, police and fire stations, homes and businesses. Add a huge tsunami on top of that and you’ll have to add many, many deaths.
In the Willamette Valley, the quake will cause severe to moderate damage. Ground liquifaction will be widespread, causing cinderblock construction to fall flat. Wood frame structures will be moderately damaged and least damaged will be steel fabricated buildings.
Here in Bend, there will be minor to moderate damage. But a 5 Richter can still cause some nasty problems like fires from natural gas breaks and damage to buildings erected prior to 1980. And there is a lot of them.
As far as recovery goes, the coast will take literally years to rebuild itself. Electricity will take three weeks to six months to restore. Police and fire stations, two months to three years. Hospitals 18 months to 3 years. Water and sewer systems 1-3 years. And their coast line is likely to fall up to 9 feet. Areas of Newport, Waldport, Seaside and others will be permanently lost to the ocean.
In the Willamette Valley, Electricity will take one to three months to restore, police and fire facilities two to four months, top highways up to a year, hospitals up to a year and a half and water and sewer facilities a month to a full year..
Here in the Bend area, it’ll take six months to a year to restore major highways to 60% capacity. Some bridges may have been weakened and will need re-inforcing. Major highways should be back to 90% capacity in a year to three years. Electricity should be back up within three days to three weeks. Sewer and water should be restored within 24 hours. The Redmond Airport should be back to 60% capacity in one to three days, to 90% within a year to three years.
As for Highway 97, it will become THE primary north-south highway in Oregon. I-5 will be a mess. Only short stretches are expected to be driveable. The airport at Redmond will become THE Oregon airport since Portland PDX will be in shambles. That will make the Redmond Airport as a major airlift command area for rescue and air transport to points west.
Presenters told the Tower Theater audience that Bend will be a very busy place and that many refugees from the coast and the valley may wind up here. Handling that service load will be quite difficult but the effort will have to be made.
They said Oregon will be embarking on a multi-billion dollar road, port, airport, bridge and major building re-enforcement campaign along the coast and in the valley over the next ten years and beyond. Where all that funding will come from isn’t known but we’re told “they’re working on it.”
Since there will be devastation along the coast, and major damage to the Portland area, tens of thousands trauma patients from the hardest hit areas will be transferred to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend and to trauma centers around the Pacific Northwest, if not into California, Nevada and Idaho.
Goods and services will arrive in Bend and work their way into the valley and along the coast. The National Guard and U.S. Military are expected to devote considerable resources to the disaster – certainly in the reconstruction of vital roads, highways, bridges and medical facilities. And FEMA will be orchestrating much of it, strategically based at the Redmond Airport.
Bend area residents must overcome the challenge of losing power for a few days, fuel shortages, delayed deliveries of groceries to local stores and prescription drugs to pharmacies. The officials suggested that you have have a gallon of water a day for each person in your family. And you might stock up with some of your neighbors in mind if they haven’t done so for themselves.
Officials say there are three critical elements required to successfully cope with the earthquake here in Bend. Be informed. Make a plan. Build a survival kit. Ingredients in a survival kit will vary by household but there are basic elements. The kits should last a family for at least two weeks. The Red Cross has information on all of that by checking their website by clicking here.