San Francisco earthquake shakes West Coast residents fearing new disasters

Dave Masko's picture

CENTRAL OREGON COAST -- San Francisco’s magnitude 4.0 earthquake early Monday sent aftershocks of fear up and down the entire West Coast, say officials.

Earthquakes and resulting Tsunami’s release a lot of fear, says Florence local Jonathan, who explained how “this San Francisco earthquake sure got our attention;” while also pointing to last year’s earthquake across the Pacific in Japan that sent Tsunami waves and debris to West Coast beaches. In turn, Jonathan, who received Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) brochures and briefings on how to prepare for earthquakes and floods March 5 – the same day that a magnitude 4.0 quake shook the San Francisco Bay area. Also, FEMA experts are not saying if but “when the next disaster hits,” and, thus, are advising both locals and visitors along the West Coast to be “prepared for earthquakes.” In turn, the California Highway Patrol’s Central Division reported on Twitter that there haven’t been any reports of damage from Monday’s quakes. In turn, local TV reports from the region featured people saying they “are worried if a big one hits.” For instance, Christine Cosgrove, who lives in Berkeley, told the San Francisco Chronicle that "a big chunk of our chimney fell down. For us, this was the strongest earthquake we've felt in 22 years in the house. Other items fell off window sills and broke."

Government asks locals to report quakes

At the same time, the U.S. Geological Survey website at asks locals who may experience either an “aftershock” or earthquake to: “Report shaking and damage at your location. You can also view a map displaying accumulated data from your report and others.”

Also, Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said they are working to “assess both the potential capacities and the potential limitations of the various forms of carbon sequestration and to evaluate their geologic, hydrologic, and ecological consequences.”

In accordance with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the USGS has developed scientifically based methods for assessment of biologic and geologic carbon sequestration.

Californians shaken awake

According to the USGS website, Californians were awaken March 5 to “back-to-back earthquakes” that more than just rattle locals in northern California; while triggering a dejavu of last March’s Japan quake.

Of the two earthquakes that hit the San Francisco Bay area March 5, the USGA noted how the stronger one was a “4.0 magnitude” and centered “one mile north of El Cerrito in the East Bay and 10 miles north-northwest of Oakland.

The quake struck at a depth of 5.7 miles at 5:33 a.m. PT, stated a USGS report.

FEMA on the ground out West

In addition to the recent Tornadoes in the Midwest, FEMA teams are busy here in Oregon briefing locals on disaster aid after the recent January storms, and new fears that “the big one” may again hit the West Coast.

Thus, FEMA is handing out advice on flood insurance and handing out its FEMA flood insurance handbook to area locals who were flooded here along the coast after Japan’s earthquake triggered massive Tsunami waves that slammed much of the West Coast early last March; leaving many regions flooded.

In turn, FEMA’s website now features advice on floods. “Anywhere it rains, it can flood. A flood is a general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land or two or more properties are inundated by water or mudflow. Many conditions can result in a flood: hurricanes , overtopped levees, outdated or clogged drainage systems and rapid accumulation of rainfall.”

Also, FEMA’s guidance states that: “Just because you haven't experienced a flood in the past, doesn't mean you won't in the future. Flood risk isn't just based on history; it's also based on a number of factors: rainfall, river-flow and tidal-surge data, topography, flood-control measures, and changes due to building and development.

Japan quake anniversary nears and so do fears

Locals here along the Oregon coast are finding themselves increasingly focused on earthquakes and Tsunamis after a 6.0 magnitude also hit this area Feb. 14. Add this recent quake to the two earthquakes that hit the San Francisco Bay area March 5, and locals say you have “very worried people who live along the coast.”

It hit like a thief in the night, when local TV media reported how “the 6.0 quake off the Oregon coast follows a 5.6 magnitude quake off the northern California Coast on Monday, Feb. 13. Although the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center reported that the earthquake that “jolted the ocean floor” about 150 miles off the Oregon coast; the earthquake “was not large enough to produce a Tsunami.”

In turn, NBC TV in Portland stated that the “Tuesday evening,” Feb. 14, earthquake “was a magnitude 6.0; and that the National Earthquake Information Center Reports the quake struck at 7:31pm Pacific Standard Time. The epicenter was out at sea 152 miles to the northwest of Bandon,” or about 70 miles south of Florence where locals have shaken nerves after the quake.

Here along the central Oregon coast, for example, one local named Betty said she fears “falling down” as she did when the Japan earthquake, and resulting Tsunami waves, slammed the West Coast last March. “I imagine all sorts of bad things in my dreams about the earthquake,” Betty explained. “I no longer take walks on the beaches due to this fear.”

Earthquake Déjà vu hits coastal locals

In turn, others in this retirement community also note feeling “unsteady, unbalanced, as if their nerves are misfiring,” due to everything from strange metal boxes appearing along the beaches to the forthcoming one year anniversary of the earthquake that hit Japan last March.

Still, many locals here in Florence like to frame a cheerful response about life on the coast in a time of real earthquake and new Tsunami fears.

“We don’t like to whine. It’s in the nature of most Americans to whine just about anything these days. I was taught never to whine,” said 86-year-old Spencer whose memory of last year’s Tsunami – that forced him into a local shelter – still seem to ruffle through his mind like wind on water.

Signs of the times for earthquakes

Take a walk along the jetty near Florence, Oregon, and you notice massive black rocks that roar up from the water’s edge. This area, with a wondrously intricate lacework of bays and coves, also features fresh reminders of the Tsunami that smashed this coast last March after the Japan earthquake sent fierce Tsunami waves racing across the Pacific Ocean.

Thus, today beach trekkers find all sorts of things from that Tsunami: planks of driftwood with Japanese writing on them, piece of broken boats and decks, large tree trunks and even what some locals call “strange metal boxes” that as of March 5, still can’t be explained after the boxes were discovered up and down the West Coast last week.

“This place beckons you to look close and discover whatever clues there are to a possible new earthquake hitting closer to home, right off our coast. They’re now saying not if the earthquake will hit, but when,” explains Florence local Greg who likes to collect piece of driftwood for his various folk art projects.

In turn, Greg says he moved to the coast – while “not thinking about the danger of earthquakes or Tsunami’s” – back in the early 1990s when he retired from a mill in nearby Eugene. “There’s a real ancient splendor of these untouched shores,” he says while pointing to yet another “metal box,” and asking “what the heck is that” during a recent Huliq interview.

Blue water rippled gently toward the shore

The National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado – at -- stated in an overview of the recent earthquake update on these recent West Coast quakes, that they did not cause any major damage.

However, that’s little comfort for locals who live on the very edge of the Oregon coast.

“Sure, there’s real concern about ‘a big one’ hitting soon,” said local Laurence here in Florence whose brother lives down the coast in Bandon where the quakes “epicenter” hit last night.

In turn, the mission of the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) is “to determine rapidly the location and size of all destructive earthquakes worldwide and to immediately disseminate this information to concerned national and international agencies, scientists, and the general public. The NEIC/WDS for Seismology compiles and maintains an extensive, global seismic database on earthquake parameters and their effects that serve as a solid foundation for basic and applied earth science research.”

Locals get 15 minutes of warning, maybe?

The NEIC explained, for example, that after coordinating with The National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado, it’s now viewed, the day after on Feb. 15, that the earthquake hit “with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 off the Oregon coast caused no reported damage and only a smattering of reports from people who felt it as a weak jolt.”

This “shallow quake was recorded at 7.31 pm PST Tuesday more than 150 miles west of southern Oregon. It did not generate a Tsunami,” stated the NEIC.

However, if an earthquake did hit, emergency management experts only think the warnings "would only give locals 15 minutes, maybe."

Quakes happening more often

Still, the NBC TV station in nearby Portland reported that residents up and down the coast reported “feeling the quake,” including this reporter and others in Florence that is about 70 miles north of the epicenter.

Almost 11 months have passed since the Japan earthquake and Tsunami smashed the West coast; while locals here along Oregon’s central coast are preparing while keeping their sense of humor with “run like hell” posted on local Tsunami warning signs.

A year after Japan’s massive 8.9 earthquake and Tsunami, the Pacific region’s “Ring of Fire” is a clear and present danger, and reminder, for the West Coast to be on alert for the same kind of earthquake happening here.

In fact, say geologists who are monitoring the region’s “shifting crust,” the “Big One” is way past due, with 2012 being a time of preparedness.

Earthquakes still threaten West Coast

Moreover, one local here along the central Oregon coast pointed to recently posted Tsunami warning signs that have taken on the light-hearted approach to “run like hell” when the next one hits.

“We know it’s coming, but when?” said the owner of a beach-front home during a recent Huliq interview.

"The Northwest coast of the U.S., that's where the big problem is, if you ask me," says Pedro Silva, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at George Washington University.

"The potential is there for a mega-earthquake of the magnitude we saw in Japan. You would be unlikely to see many buildings withstand it."

Oregon preparing for the “Big One”

With Tsunami preparations on the mind of just about everybody on Oregon’s West Coast these days, it’s no surprise that Senator Ron Wyden, the senior U.S. Senator for Oregon discussed the need for earthquake and Tsunami preparations by locals.

Senator Wyden hosted a recent town hall meeting here at the coastal town of Florence and, in turn, told locals to be prepared for earthquakes and Tsunamis.

In turn, local officials said Senator Wyden heard local concerns at the Florence Fire House that serves as the area’s hub for Tsunami disaster alerts and preparedness training that’s been in full force since last year’s Japan earthquake.

Also, Oregon’s disaster preparedness officials have organized large-scale earthquake and Tsunami drills; while Jan. 26 marked the 312th anniversary of a Pacific Northwest earthquake.

At the same time, officials recently told National Public Radio (NPR) that this anniversary of the mighty quake that hit the Pacific Northwest “was roughly the size of Japan’s 8.9 earthquake that hit last March. “

Stay prepared, ready to run

For now, communities and government agencies are still responding to the damages caused along parts of the West Coast last winter when a massive Tsunami raced at high speed across the Pacific Ocean from Japan.

Thus, it’s no surprise that people down in the San Francisco Bay area joked about their recent “Monday Morning Quake” March 5 by telling local media that “they need to be prepared, and ready to run.”

Still, it’s no joking matter that a quake the size of the one that hit Japan last March could result in a large loss of life when it finally hits.

Tsunami a wake-up call for the West Coast

One local Oregon coast resident also told Huliq, in a recent interview, that “the memories of that terrible Tsunami are crowding back,” like a hidden current that’s painfully in the back of many beach dwellers’ minds these days.

In turn, any talk of another Tsunami hitting the West Coast is like the mighty Pacific Ocean wrapping around the rocks out at sea here along the Oregon coast where local Tsunami sirens break the peace and quiet regularly with a sort of cry and into a scream “that reminds you of last year’s Tsunami all over again,” quipped one local who said the “sirens stretch around them” like hearing one’s home fire alarm going off.

“When we hear that sudden danger-whistle, it just makes you jump to your feet and you want to get moving away from the ocean,” explained Oregon coastal resident Peggy Ergin.

“The Tsunami warning is like a roar from absolute silence. It’s the sound of danger, and boy do we get moving when it sounds.”

Oregon still recovering from Tsunami

If you travel just north of the California-Oregon border to the peaceful seaport town of Brookings you will still see remnants of last year’s Tsunami from the Japan earthquake.

For instance, one city official explained how up to a dozen boats sunk when Tsunami waves smashed into the West Coast last year, and “you know what, we’re still finding damage from that disaster,” he said.

Moreover, Rick Tine of nearby Coos Bay, made it into the national newspapers the day after the March 11 Japan earthquake when he showed how the Tsunami damaged his 44-foot sloop, Sponte, when it was docked in the Port of Brookings at the time of the Japan earthquake.

In turn, Tine explained to the media that after huge wave surges from the Tsunami, his boat broke loose from its slip and, in turn, was smashed to bits by the powerful Tsunami waves. Tine said he was sailing from San Francisco to Coos Bay when he decided to take refuge from the rolling Tsunami waves, but had no idea of Mother’s Natures power when it forms into a Tsunami.

Also, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that the West Coast is rightly preparing for the next earthquake and Tsunami because “both Japan and the Pacific Northwest lie along subduction zones – areas where tectonic plates push against each other. When the growing pressure finally gives way, earthquakes and related Tsunamis result.”

Casadia fault is to blamed for fears on West Coast

At the same time, noted in reports after last year’s Japan earthquake that “the Casadia subduction zone – also called the Cascadia fault’ – is where the Juan de Fuca and North America plates meet – sometimes in violent confrontation. Its part of the ‘ring of fire’ – volcanoes and earthquakes surging in the Pacific Ocean. The Cascade Mountain Range – which includes Mount St. Helens – is volcanically active.”

Also, reported that “the last time a ‘big one’ of the type Japan saw Friday occurred along the northwest coast was on Jan 26, 1700. Judging by the number of times that’s happened over the past 10,000 years, some scientists think another one is due this century.

Moreover, local TV stations in the Pacific Northwest and all along the West Coast have stepped up warnings and advisories for “residents to take precautions and have an escape plan” for when and not if the next earthquake and Tsunami hits the coast.

“It has happened in the past. It will happen in the future. It would be devastating,” explained Professor Scott Burns during a KPTV interview in nearby Portland where this geology professor teaches at Portland State University.

In turn, Professor Burns explained in a Wall Street Journal report “how the Pacific Northwest is dotted with tsunami warning devices that could give people the critical few minutes needed to reach higher ground. But in many areas, building codes and construction have not advanced to the extent they have in Japan.”

Moreover, Professor Robert Butler – a geophysicist at the University of Portland – told The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash., that “we’re getting better about people taking this stuff seriously. I credit the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean” and last year’s Japan earthquake for what the professor calls “a step-up in awareness.”

Warnings continue, fear rises

NPR reported also reported recently that Japan’s earthquake and Tsunami from this time last year is “alerting the West Coast that the same kind of thing could happen here. Experts who study the Earth’s shifting crust say the ‘Big One’ may be past due.”

In turn, NPR noted how “Japan lies on the ‘Ring of Fire’ an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching around the Pacific where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur, including the one that triggered the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean Tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people in 12 nations.

A magnitude-8.8 temblor that shook central Chile last February also generated a tsunami and killed 524 people.

Quake alerts now a way of life

Now, nearly a year later, there’s monthly “Tsunami alerts” issued for the low-lying areas along the West Coast where massive Tsunami waves swamped Oregon’s coastal beaches and severely damaged harbors in both Oregon and California; while several people were reported missing along these coasts after they were swept out to sea.

In turn, Japan continues to show TV images from Sendai that showed highways buckling and older wooded structures flattened by the force of the shaking. As the Tsunami wave swept ashore, Sendai airport was instantly inundated. The wave washed through a fish market near the shoreline, picking up an entire parking lot full of cars and sweeping them into the sea.

“That can lead to enormous death tolls. Earthquakes aren't getting bigger or more frequent, says Raymond Pestrong, a San Francisco State University geologist, but they are occurring in more crowded places;” while Pestrong’s NPR interview also revealed how “cities such as Tehran, Iran; Istanbul; Caracas, Venezuela; and Manila, the Philippines are vulnerable to quakes that could leave hundreds of thousands dead, if their regions and structures don't become better prepared. One assessment done last year for the Filipino government found that a quarter of the structures in urban areas could crumble in the event of an earthquake.”

Quakes feared now out West

"The reason that we hear so much more about natural disasters today is that people are flocking into large cities more," Pestrong says. "Lots of the large cities are in very vulnerable areas. When an event happens, it affects more people."

At the same time, the recent earthquakes to the hit the West Coast were reported by The National Earthquake Information Center to be 150 miles out to sea; while reminding locals that the infamous Casadia subduction zone is also “out to sea off the West Coast.”

Also, San Francisco’s magnitude 4.0 earthquake early March 5 continues to leave locals “unsettled” after the quake sent aftershocks of fear up and down the entire West Coast, say officials.

Image source of a FEMA guidebook for flooding that occurred during recent Pacific Northwest storms last January that resulted in the president declaring parts of Oregon a disaster area with locals able to file for help from FEMA. Photo by Dave Masko

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