Add landslides to the list of potential earthquake-related hazards in Washington State

DNR Geologic Information Portal
In this scenario from DNR’s Geologic Information Portal, an estimated 6,500 buildings in King County would be ‘red tagged’ as uninhabitable, and 21,000 more ‘yellow tagged’ for moderate damage, following a 7.2. magnitude earthquake on the Seattle fault. Source: DNR/Div. of Geology & Earth Resources.

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake today off Japan’s east coast is a reminder of the need for everyone to be aware of their earthquake risks. A recent study of the risks in our own region indicates that earthquake-induced landslides are another significant risk factor to consider. A newly published study led by University of Washington researchers suggests that a large earthquake on the Seattle fault could trigger many destructive landslides. Even areas not now considered prone to such landslides could be affected, the study’s authors say.

The Seattle fault extends from Bainbridge Island to the Seattle’s eastern suburbs, dissecting the city just south of its downtown. The UW study does not show which areas would be most affected by a Seattle fault earthquake, but it does try to illustrate the extent of landslides to expect following a large earthquake. 

The DNR Division of Geology and Earth Resources maintains the Washington State Geologic Information Portal, an online tool which allows you to create, save, and print custom maps showing various geologic hazards for almost any location in the state. The division also works with FEMA, and other federal agencies, as well as with academic researchers to better understand the impacts of earthquakes and other natural hazards on Washington State’s residents and infrastructure, such as utilities, bridges, communications, public safety services, etc.

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