With 'big one' coming, quake alert system launches in Oregon
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — People in Oregon will be better prepared for earthquakes — particularly important in the Pacific Northwest because experts say “the big one" is coming — as an early warning system launched Thursday, the 10th anniversary of a devastating quake and tsunami in Japan.
California already has the system, while Washington state will join in May to complete coverage of the West Coast. The ShakeAlert system operated by the U.S. Geological Survey uses seismographic sensors to detect significant earthquakes quickly so alerts reach smartphones and people can seek cover before the shaking starts.
“It’s very important that (the three states) are all partners in ShakeAlert, because earthquakes don’t respect geographic boundaries, and we have huge population centers all across the West Coast where earthquake risk is the highest in the contiguous U.S.,” said Gabriel Lotto, ShakeAlert user engagement facilitator for the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.
Earthquakes in the Cascadia subduction zone, which extends from the ocean off Northern California to Canada’s Vancouver Island, have an average magnitude of around 9, making them among the world’s biggest.
A quake in that zone has a 37% probability of happening off Oregon in the next 50 years, with a slightly lower chance of one striking near Washington state, according to Chris Goldfinger, an Oregon State University professor and earthquake geologist.
“When a Cascadia event happens, the critical seconds of notice ShakeAlert warnings provide will save lives and reduce damage to important lifeline systems,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said.
The system cannot predict an earthquake but can give people a jump on seeking cover from falling objects and time to brace themselves.
When an earthquake is...