Southern Oregon — We may not know when the big Cascadia earthquake will hit.
Experts say it could happen in the next 50 years.
While it may be decades before it happens an Oregon Commission has spent the last five years, working on a resilience plan to prepare.
Instead of waiting for the big event and dealing with the aftermath for years the state is trying to get ahead of the disaster so it will only take about three years to reach a so-called “new normal”.
“Am I concerned? No. Am I unprepared? Yes,” Central Point resident John Fowler said.
When John Fowler moved to Southern Oregon, he was shocked to learn about the threat of the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
He had no idea until recently about the gigantic earthquake threatening the future of the pacific northwest.
“Suddenly beginning to realize the significance of it, and how big and powerful and how destructive it could be,” Fowler said.
Experts say a full rupture could leave the ground shaking for up to five minutes and it would be the largest natural hazard event in the history of our country.
That’s why Fowler is educating himself now by attending meetings and presentations.
“What kind of problems is Cascadia going to cause, how concerned should I be, what should I do in preparation for it… I mean I’m just learning at this point, I’m in a super learning mode,” Fowler said.
He isn’t the only one learning and preparing.
Five years ago, the legislature put forth the necessity for an Oregon Resilience Plan and gave the responsibility to the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission.
“It’s looking at how we can prepare Oregon for a big cascadia earthquake and tsunami,” Jay Raskin said.
Jay Raskin is the chair of that commission.
He’s now presenting the work that’s been done so far.
He says Oregon needs to go through many seismic upgrades in order to be ahead of the big event.
About 80 percent of roads and infrastructure were built before the knowledge of the huge earthquake.
“This is going to be a 50-year effort. We have a long way to go, and you’re going to have to do it over time,” Raskin said.
In the last five years, the commission created a state resilience officer to make sure state agencies work together.
The commission also asked the legislature for an increase in funding at schools.
“They’ve put in over 300 million dollars of bonding for schools, and they’re well on their way to retrofitting a lot of the schools around the state,” Raskin said.
The commission still has nearly a hundred recommendations to implement, but Raskin says so far Oregon’s work has set a good example for other states.
“I’m quite proud of Oregon. Most places basically wait until the event happens and try to figure things out for the next one, and we’re doing it before this thing actually happens to us,” Raskin said.
If you’d like to learn more about preparing for the cascadia earthquake, there will be another presentation Tuesday evening from 6-8 at the Jackson County Expo (Mace Watchable Wildlife Memorial Center).