Shake Alert earthquake system discussed at UO


EUGENE, Ore. (KOIN) — A roundtable discussion on earthquake warning in the Pacific Northwest took place Tuesday morning on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, who is on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, was among the guests along with other government officials and scientists.

The Shake Alert earthquake early warning system was among the topics discussed.

DeFazio spoke with representatives from FEMA, the USGS and ODOT in an effort to make coordination of an early warning system successful.

Experts agree a large earthquake is likely to hit the Pacific Northwest, but when remains a mystery.

“It’s inevitable,” DeFazio said. “It’s going to happen. We don’t know when.”

The UO forum reinforced DeFazio’s view that an early warning system and investment in key infrastructure retrofitting are critical elements of a successful earthquake preparedness plan.

“We need to be prepared to mitigate the loss of life and the suffering that will result after the event,” he said.

Patrick Corcoran, a specialist in coastal natural hazards, said the greatest risk is to people in the Tsunami Inundation Zone, where an early warning system could save thousands of lives.

“My people need to know when they feel the earthquake, that is their warning to get to high ground as soon as possible,” Corcoran said.

For the last 300 years it’s been very quiet, said Dr. Chris Goldfinger. The professor of geology and geophysics at Oregon State University has warned for years about the CSZ. But it wasn’t until a recent article in the New Yorker that struck a nerve and set off a nationwide discussion.

Seismologists say the Juan De Fuca plate is slipping steadily beneath North America. Meanwhile the North American plate is wedged tight against the surface just waiting to snap.

“When it finally lets go and the leading edge of North America lets go, snap forward and up, that’s what generates the tsunami,” Goldfinger said.

Stay with KOIN 6 News during Quake Week through Friday.

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