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Scientists Say NW U.S. Overdue For Giant Earthquake

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05/27/2005 04:21 PM
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Scientists Say NW U.S. Overdue For Giant Earthquake
Scientists Say NW U.S. Overdue For Giant Earthquake

May 27, 2005

PORTLAND, Ore. - Scientists are urging city planners and emergency services to get ready for the Big One.

They say an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 or greater is overdue for the Northwest, and that the area is not prepared for the aftermath of such a powerful temblor.

Using geological records and historical data, scientists estimate that a huge quake hits the area every 500 years or so. They added that the last big quake on the fault line was over 500 years ago.

The quake is expected to strike the Cascadia Subduction Zone, an active fault line under the Pacific Ocean that runs as close as 20 miles to the Northwest shorelines.

Scientists say that when - not if - the earthquake takes place, the consequences could resemble the devastation that struck Indonesia in December of 2004 after an 8.9 magnitude quake hit off the coast in the Indian Ocean.

Over 200,000 people were killed after tsunamis unleashed by the quake hit along coastlines in several countries around the Indian Ocean.

Scientists say the conditions off the Oregon and Washington coastlines are similar to the setting in Indonesia, and tsunami waves should be expected after the big quake.

Several communities along the Oregon coastline have evacuation plans in effect if a tsunami warning is sounded. But scientists say the devastating effects of such a large earthquake could stretch inland to major metropolitan areas as well.

State Geologist Vicki McConnell says that besides coastal tsunamis, people should expect massive damage to buildings, bridges and highways if a large quake hit the ocean fault line.