▶️ Oregon launches earthquake ‘ShakeAlert’ emergency system Thursday

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Off the Oregon coast the Cascadia Subduction Zone is building up pressure where huge chunks of the earth’s crust come together.

Scientists predict that could trigger a major earthquake of 7.1 magnitude or worse in the next 50 years.

Ten years ago the 9.1 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami happened on the coast of Japan.

“It is a tectonic setting very similar to Cascadia,” said Oregon ShakeAlert Regional Coordinator Lucy Walsh.

That kicked off federal and state efforts to prepare for something similar here.

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley helped secure federal funding to bring the ShakeAlert early warning system to Oregon.

“Well you shouldn’t be in a situation where you are saying ‘well the catastrophic quake just hit, I wish we would have done this in advance,” Merkley said.

ShakeAlert sends an emergency message after sensors detect seismic waves indicating an earthquake.

If you are near the epicenter of the earthquake that alert might come too late.

“You may still get an alert, but it will likely arrive when shaking begins,” said OMSI Junior Inclusion and Engagement Specialist Jenny Crayne.

The further away, the more time between the alert and earthquake, which means more time to prepare.

“You can potentially get a few seconds of warning before the ground starts to shake in some cases tens of seconds, maybe minutes, but that is really kind of pushing it,” Crayne said.

Those seconds may be crucial to help people take cover and for utilities and emergency services to act. 

“To do what they need to do to close water valves or close down turbines or whatever else and every other major piece of infrastructure,” Merkley said about the alert.

If a big quake hits, Central Oregon will be a major emergency response center.

The Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond is a logistical hub for federal and military relief operations.

“That means that a lot of resources, supplies, goods, personal, would ultimately funnel through the Redmond and Central Oregon area on there way to support disaster recover and response operations on the west side of the state,” said Emergency Manager for Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Nathan Garibay.

If you have your government alerts on, ShakeAlert will turn on by default after 10 a.m. Thursday.

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