March 13, 2014
Large Pacific Northwest American Earthquake Threat

A big subduction zone plate shift could ruin your whole day. 9.0 baby.

In the Pacific Northwest, Native American stories told of "how the prairie became ocean," and how canoes were flung into trees. Whitmore of the National Tsunami Warning Center said similar waves, up to 100 feet above sea level, could again inundate many areas of the U.S. West Coast.

West of Eureka California a 6.9 earthquake just hit 3 nights ago. It was at the southern end of the Cascadia subduction zone.

Sooner or later huge natural disasters happen. Hurricanes aren't a big deal because we can see them approaching and we've got cars and evacuation shelters. But catastrophic damage orders of magnitude larger are possible and inevitable. Are you ready?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 March 13 07:54 PM 

Russ in TX said at March 14, 2014 8:13 AM:

I have to assume that's rhetorical.
Because, really, how do you "get ready" for a **9.0?**

nicus said at March 14, 2014 3:38 PM:

Yup. I live 1,000 ft from the surf on the Washington coast. Elevation, 40 ft. Front row seats, baby!

Randall Parker said at March 15, 2014 8:45 PM:


How do you get ready for a 9.0: Um, move?

It isn't that bad in wooden structures if they are properly designed. If you are high enough up to be above the tsunami you'll be okay.


How about blimp in the garage? Maybe you could inflate it fast enough to rise up before the wave arrives.

Randall Parker said at March 15, 2014 9:54 PM:

BTW, this BBC documentary on a large Cascadia earthquake has excellent interviews of geologists who study subduction zones and tsunamis.

Ronald Brak said at March 15, 2014 11:27 PM:

You can purchase tsunami survival pods. Or you could make your own shelter with some concrete and a few youtube videos. (What could possibly go wrong?) I'd put a crowbar and a jack inside so you can get out if there is wreckage piled against the exit. The day may not be far off when new construction in disaster prone areas is required to have some sort of shelter. I presume this is already the case in areas in the US where tornados are a common occurance.

nicus said at March 16, 2014 1:51 PM:

After watching videos of the tsunami hitting Japan 3 years ago, I've given survival pods a lot of thought. What impressed me most about the scenes in Japan was that boats seemed to survive well. Shoot. Even cars floated around, bobbing like corks... till they sank. Simple survival pods seem to have two major failing in my view. First, if you float, it is likely you will be carried out to sea. In the chaos after a 9.0, rescue may be unlikely. Second, If I were to climb inside one, all the while I was waiting for the flood I'd be thinking, maybe I could have made it to high ground.

My solution? An armored amphibious SUV. After climbing in, I could make my best attempt to get to high ground. If I didn't make it, Japanese videos indicate I'd have a good change of floating away. On-board propulsion would allow me to come ashore on my own without counting on rescue. Unlikely I'll ever build such a thing, so I'm getting serious about moving.

Engineer-Poet said at March 16, 2014 2:10 PM:

Just build yourself a multi-story Monolithic™ dome-home.  If the upper floors are high enough and your foundations solid, you'll be safe there.

Randall Parker said at March 16, 2014 8:34 PM:

Survival pod: My concern would be on having it tossed hard into something more solid. But it seems very sensible. It would greatly up your odds of survival. It could be designed to be self-righting. A combination of layers of fiberglass and foam ought to make any one hard hit unlikely to do much to its structural integrity.

Tom Billings said at March 16, 2014 9:35 PM:

Oddly enough, with the help of Julia Greer's group at Caltech, the blimp idea may not be too bad. Just don't expect to have time to inflate it. Instead use graphene skinned architectured nano-trusses for the material, with no air on the inside of the trusses. Make the trusses out of a graphene/diamond composite. Your normal house should be made of the same material, and built atop this lifting body, except that it all simply stays in place because you've tied it down . Bury the lifting body under your house just enough that your doorway is the height you want. When the tsunami comes, cast away the tie-downs, and you are above it all.

Design in an ability to lower your house down into the middle of the lifting body using an open column through the middle of the lifting body, for stability. Use the column as the world's best insulated cellar during the years you are waiting for the water to come. Leave one tie-down cable several hundred meters long anchored firmly in the ground. Make sure you have a fueled and ready generator large enough to power lightweight electrically driven propellors for maneuvering if the anchoring of that last tie-down is insufficient. Until the water comes, the generator will allow you to sneer at coastal storms that break all the power lines.

Or, could move to the Tualatin Valley, with the coast range between you and the sea and a 500 ft. ridgeline between you and the Columbia River estuary.

Randall Parker said at March 16, 2014 10:10 PM:


The idea of a house that can float is totally cool. You can catch a video of Julia Greer on lightweight nano materials. Pretty interesting stuff. Thanks for mentioning it.

Ronald Brak said at March 16, 2014 10:13 PM:

Maybe I'm overlooking something here, but for a tsunami shelter shouldn't a securely fixed concrete dome allow one to survive? The shelter could have ventilation down low so the air stays fresh until the tsunami hits and when it does hit air is trapped in the concrete dome. It would have to be strong enough to take a pounding from debris, but maybe it would be a cheaper, more foolproof option than floating pods.

Wolf-Dog said at March 17, 2014 4:17 PM:

In the James Bond movie "A View To a Kill" (1985) there was a plot to destroy Silicon Valley by using a giant tsunami.

Maybe this movie was science-fiction, but such an outcome would set back the entire high-tech industry for many decades.

aandrews said at March 19, 2014 8:48 AM:

"Unlikely I'll ever build such a thing...."

Practical (under the circumstances) AND retro! You could even have a '74 VW Campmobile parked on high ground, just in case.

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