When the Cascadia Subduction Zone produces its next 9.0-plus magnitude megathrust earthquake, it will unleash a catastrophic seismic force across the entire Pacific Northwest, including destructive tsunami waves that will slam into the coast.
While California’s high seismic risks often overshadow the dangers lurking in other parts of the country, local officials the Pacific Northwest are well aware that the region’s most significant disaster—and the mass destruction and disruption it will bring—could come at any moment.
In Oregon, state and local officials are using a “living document” to help plan for the next big Cascadia megathrust event, which some seismologists think overdue.
The Cascadia Playbook offers a timeline of what’s expected to happen in the immediate hours and subsequent days following a major megathrust earthquake, which is expected to cause damage to buildings and infrastructure and disrupt state and local public services.
"It's also about letting Oregonians know that the initial steps to develop this project are underway, which will provide a mission based coordinated approach of how multiple state agencies would respond to this kind of disaster," Gov. John Kitzhaber said in September following the playbook’s release across the state, according to KATU-TV in Portland.
Dave Stuckey, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, says that when the inevitable megathrust quake comes, the playbook will be ready.
“The middle of January and it’s raining and its dark and we have a Cascadia Subduction Zone rupture. We don’t need to think about what we’re doing,” he says. “We’re pulling the playbook out. We’re just going down the checklist. And that will help us respond to this disaster much more efficiently in hopes of helping save people’s lives.