Hurricane Sandy should put us all on alert | Reporter's Notebook | Linda Ball

As the eastern seaboard recovers from its battering by Hurricane Sandy, which combined with a winter storm from the west to be dubbed "Frankenstorm," we in the Puget Sound area should remember that we are not immune to natural disasters.

Thankfully, we don't have hurricanes, but earthquakes are the most significant threat to Seattle and its neighboring cities.

I wasn't here for the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, which measured 6.8 on the richter scale, and is the impetus for the demolition of the Alaska Way Viaduct and the construction of an underground tunnel to replace it. I don't know if I'll feel any safer in an underground tunnel, than I would have on the viaduct, but that's another issue.

I was 7-years-old when I did ride out the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964, which measured 9.2 on the richter scale — a monster. (For those of you who just did the math, yes, I just gave away my age, but at this age I really don't care).

The earthquake was one of my most vivid childhood memories, and I don't want to go through another one like that. I was in Anchorage where I grew up, and I remember hearing it coming before the violent shaking began. Getting out of the house was like running through an obstacle course, with furniture falling over, and dinner plates coming out of the cupboards like flying saucers. The city was in ruins. We had no power or water. But we dusted ourselves off and forged on. What else can you do?

Fortunately, loss of life was much less than it could have been because it was Good Friday, and there was no school. Several schools collapsed.

Here in the Pacific Northwest the big threat is the Cascadia subduction zone, a very long sloping fault that stretches from mid-Vancouver Island to Northern California. Because of its size, it could produce a monster earthquake. The last big earthquake event along the CSZ was in January 1700, causing a tsunami in Japan.

Looking at a 2008 report from the U.S. Geological Survey, it seems we're overdue.

Now, I'm not trying to panic you, but just like the folks in the east hopefully had their preparedness kits in order, we should do the same.

Earthquake insurance might be a good idea for homeowners. As in preparing for any disaster or storm, have flashlights, candles, bottled water and food on hand.

Earlier this year, the City of Seattle participated in a two-day exercise that provided the opportunity to test extended response for two or three days after an earthquake. Long-term sheltering planning, recovery issues, medical and human services, communication and transportation issues were all discussed, to provide a blueprint of who does what.

In the meantime, winter is coming to the Puget Sound area, and although we have it pretty easy compared to Alaska, King County has some tips at takewinterbystorm.org to help you prepare for an emergency.

The web site recommends three main tips. First, create an emergency preparedness kit with at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water. The county also recommends kits prepared for vehicle road travel and winter weather evacuation.

Make a plan and practice the plan with your family and those who depend on you.

And finally, stay informed and be aware of bad weather approaching.

I admit, I'm not the most prepared person if there is a disaster. But events like what is happening on the East Coast certainly make me think about being better prepared. We can't control Mother Nature's wrath when she unleashes it.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates