“We’re in that window of it occurring:” The importance of ShakeAlert for “The Big One”

ASHLAND, Ore. — The ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System went into effect in Oregon Thursday morning.

Developers said the system will offer seconds of advance notice so the public can take action to mitigate injuries, casualties and infrastructure damage.

Earthquake experts said the new technology will be vital when the Cascadia Subduction Zone unzips.

We asked Eric Dittmer, Southern Oregon University Professor Emeritus of Geology, about the earthquake risk for our region. He said there are three types of earthquakes that can happen in southern Oregon, crustal, deep and subduction zone.

Between the three, crustal earthquakes, like the ones in Klamath Falls back in 1993, have the biggest impact in terms of damage… but they only happen every few hundred years.

A subduction zone earthquake, like the so-called “Big One,” is at the highest risk of happening at any moment, due to how often it has happened in the past.

“That’s why we’re emphasizing Cascadia,” Dittmer said, “it’s certainly the largest potential earthquake source and it seems like we’re in that window of it occurring.”

The largest recorded earthquake in Oregon’s history happened near the California border along the coast in 1873. The motion was reportedly felt in both Portland and San Francisco.

While the new ShakeAlert technology won’t predict earthquakes, experts said the extra seconds of notice that some receive could be life-saving.

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