Tohuku earthquake hit Japan two years ago; Deadly earthquake and tsunami are chilling reminders for Washington residents

seismic surveys
At the Ocosta Elementary School near Westport, DNR hazards geologist Ray Cakir supervises undergraduate student assistants Ben LeVeque and Alec Cole as they take seismic survey measurements. Their work will add to a statewide data catalog of shear wave velocity profiles—an important factor in earthquake-resistant building design. Photo: Randall J. LeVeque.

Two years ago on March 11, a magnitude 9 earthquake, followed by a tsunami, hit northern Japan causing thousands of deaths and massive destruction to the nation’s infrastructure. An earthquake fault with similar potential lies just off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Geologists say it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ the Cascadia fault off our coast unleashes another mega quake. To get a picture of what we may need to do in the recovery, DNR and other members of the Washington State Seismic Safety Committee  produced the ‘Resilient Washington State‘ report. Some of the report’s conclusions and recommendations are mentioned by the Seattle Times in its Sunday edition).

Another look at what will someday happen here again (the last major earthquake on the Cascadia fault was  in 1700), comes from the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake that severely damaged New Zealand’s second-largest city, killing 185 people. That event, which left large parts of Christchurch in ruins, has valuable lessons for Seattle and other parts of western Washington might expect,  KPLU-FM reported recently.

The Seismic Safety Committee membership includes staff from the state’s Emergency Management Division, University of Washington, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and private industry and professional groups as well as DNR.