The Big Pacific Northwest Earthquake: Not If, When

Most of us know that the Pacific Northwest rests on one of the Earth’s major fault lines, the Cascadia subduction zone. This fault line runs offshore the length of the west coast, from west of Vancouver, B.C down through northern California. And most of us also know that we here in Oregon and Washington have had our fair share of smaller, barely register-able tremors over the last century or so.

But what many of us don’t know (or DO know and are choosing to conveniently ignore) is that the BIG ONE is overdue in our part of the world. This is a prime instance where we should be paying very close attention to what our scientists are saying (ahem, Trump Administration) and heed their warnings. Findings don’t merely suggest…they are PROVING that the average time between a major earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone over the last few millennia has come and gone…a LONG time ago.

Read this award-winning piece about the next big PNW quake.

So, what does this mean for the average northern west coast resident? Well, if you’re living right on the coast, and you don’t plan on moving inland anytime soon, you should be very worried. At the very least, you should have a very good plan for how to protect yourself and your loved ones, and have the necessary provisions in place.Because for those living near the coastline, not only do you have to prepare for the next big quake, you also have to prepare for the devastating tsunami to follow. And that can be infinitely more disastrous than the quake itself.

Earthquake Geologic Mapping


For those of us further inland, we will have food, water and utility shortages for a significant period afterwards, and quite a few destroyed buildings. Inconvenient yes, but not if we are prepared and have our wits about us.

But then what does this mean for visitors to the Pacific Northwest and tourism in general? Am I suddenly trying to scare you all away? Heavens, no! You should absolutely NOT be scared to come visit, because the reality of it is…a natural disaster can happen ANYWHERE in the world. And what’s more, we have no idea WHEN the quake is coming…only that we know that it WILL come, eventually. Why live your life in fear? It’s just not worth it. If you want any sort of hard numbers, scientists have worked out that there is a 37% chance that the big one will hit the area within the next 50 years. You have a greater chance of being mugged in your own neighborhood than being caught in an earthquake and/or tsunami while visiting the Pacific Northwest.

People Say the Entire West Coast is Going to Drop Into the Pacific

That is a wild myth, my dear reader. There is an infinitely greater chance of the water level slowly rising (which it is, right now) to make the coast “disappear” than the west coast actually breaking off and “falling” into the ocean. So no, fear not, the beautiful Pacific Northwest will still be here after the BIG ONE hits. We’ll just need to do a little housecleaning and rebuilding before you arrive.

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