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  • 19 Sep 2014

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Earthquake: Big one overdue in Oregon

A 6.0 magnitude quake in California’s Napa Valley served as another friendly reminder to Oregonians about “the big one.”

It’s not a matter of if, but when a major quake along the Cascadia fault strikes Oregon, and emergency preparedness is of the utmost importance.

Three faults run through the city of Portland, and off the Oregon Coast sits the Juan de Fuca plate – which could move at any time.

The California quake reminds Portland State University Geologist Scott Burns that an earthquake of that magnitude or higher could just have easily have struck Portland.

“We’re concerned about that,” he said.

A big one in the Pacific Northwest occurs on average every 500 years, he said. The last large earthquake in the region happened more than 300 years ago.

Are we ready?

University of Portland Environmental Studies professor Robert Butler said local infrastructure could be severely damaged by a major quake, because any buildings constructed before 1990 were built with no earthquake codes.

“Those unreinforced buildings will sustain severe damage,” said Butler. “We have infrastructure that is not ready for that.”

Furthermore, Burns said more faults are being found in the Portland area and Willamette Valley.

Oregon is making progress retrofitting buildings with seismic upgrades. Still, experts say too few Oregonians take the threat seriously enough to have an earthquake kit at home.

Emergency preparedness at home includes an earthquake kit, which should include water, a first aid kit, medication, a flashlight, a portable radio and plenty of batteries.