From the Blog

We Are So Screwed

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Last week, Dave and I went to our first OMSI Science Pub at the Bagdad. I happened to read Dave’s blog rather late in the day and saw that this one was about the Cascadia Subduction Zone. I don’t know what our plans had been, but I immediately wanted to go hear about how screwed we are if that shit goes off.

Have you heard about the Cascadia Subduction Zone? It’s very similar that what caused the quake in Japan. We watched clips from The National Geographic show Mega Quake, where they got the announcer from Sunday Monster Truck Rally to do the narration. I mean, come on. Is it not scary enough without having to dramatize and entertainerize it? I know they have to dumb it down a bit to keep it from seeming dry and sciencey. And I know they are competing with the evening news for fear mongering. But come on. Stop it with the truck rally announcer voices.

Nevertheless, it was a fascinating talk. All the more so (for me at least), because the two engineers who spoke were women. I feel like that shouldn’t be a big deal, but it seems uncommon. So I noticed, and I was sort of pleased.

They talked about Chile, and they talked about Japan, which were two of the largest earthquakes in the past 100 years. They both make the top 10 (Sumatra in 2004 also makes the top 10). And, oh, there’s a similar fault system off the coast of Oregon.

They talked about Oregon’s buildings and our infrastructure. Unreinforced masonry buildings. Houses barely bolted to their foundations. Oil tanks and aging piers that wouldn’t pass the muster of a creaky backyard deck. Portland began thinking about earthquake building codes in the 1990s. The Fremont Bridge was constructed before we understood the mechanics of plate tectonics.

I sat and listened and I sent out a tweet.

Seriously. As they talked, I looked at the grand old chandeliers of the Bagdad hanging above us. I thought about our 11th floor apartment, built in 2009, but surely not up to the code that Japan uses. I thought about how I always use up the last bit of gas in my car until the orange light comes on. I thought about how I didn’t even know my own husband’s cell phone number.

After they talked, a couple representatives from the Red Cross came out. Man, the audience was primed. I was ready for some hot preparedness action. They wheeled out a full sized plastic trash bin. Inside was everything you could think of. Water, duct tape, flashlights, food, plastic, etc. They said to leave it outside in a place that was easily accessible. Well, fine, but not everyone lives in a house with a secure yard. But I can see where they were going.

It was a giant pile of stuff. It would probably take up half of our only closet. I thought about our camping gear, which has many of these essentials. We would totally rock out a disaster. We’ve got briquettes and a dutch oven and everything. We’ve got two tents, even. But our camping gear is in a family member’s garage 20 miles away. Dave’s Mom will be able to rock out a disaster.

So, damn. We are not prepared. And now I’m super paranoid. I’m hoping the Cascadia Subduction Zone will hold off at least until we are not living in a highrise building. We are looking for apartments in Astoria now, where we also have to think about tsunamis. How high up the hill do we need to go? 30 feet? 50 feet? 100 feet? Hopefully, our new place will have enough space so we can keep some emergency stuff ready.

I’ll put together a bag full of stuff to keep in the car. My car already has duct tape in it because, duh, I am my father’s daughter, and wouldn’t I feel dumb if my car broke down and all it needed was a little duct tape to get me home? Yes, I’d feel dumb.

In the meantime, I’m going to do an emergency contact list and PRINT it on PAPER and keep it in my wallet. My family, Dave’s family, vet numbers, financial numbers, blood types, favorite beer, all that stuff. I’ll also send it to people who need to know. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. And that’s just in case I lose my phone.

Never mind when we get a big fat earthquake. I was really glad we made the spontaneous trip to this Science Pub. I needed to be shown how bad it will be, and be freaked into thinking about being prepared. No truck rally voice needed. If you live in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia or even California, (because California is super screwed for their own reasons) do yourself a favor and go see what the Red Cross advises about being ready for earthquakes and other disasters. I’m not saying to be paranoid or to live in fear. Just be ready. Just get yourself stocked up on band aids and creamed corn.

If nothing ever happens, then great! But if something DOES happen, we are so, so, so screwed.

(I have ranted about Disaster P0rn and the impending “doom voice” before.)


  1. So, ha, after I wrote this, I hit the hay. I was awoken in the middle of the night by shaking. It took me a second in my sleepy mental state to realize the building shouldn’t be shaking. The building is made of concrete, glass and fake wood and stuff.

    And I realized, I’ve never felt the building shake and I was suddenly IMMEDIATELY awake, with my heart pounding and my pulse racing. I jumped out of bed and grabbed my laptop to go look up shake maps. I was thinking…could it be a fore shock? Japan had a couple big quakes before the BIG BIG quake.

    I went out to the kitchen with my laptop to keep from disturbing Dave. But it was almost 5 am, and he was already up, sitting on the couch. Then I got confused.

    “Did you feel the building shake?”

    “What? The building didn’t shake. Are you awake?”

    “I’m awake. I thought I felt the building shake. I was going to look it up online to see if we had an earthquake.”

    He smirked. I started to feel silly.

    “Your blog post, huh?”

    “Yeah, I guess so.”

    It was probably the cat on the bed, licking or scratching. Which he’s done for nine years. But I had freaked myself out by writing this post.

    It’s entertaining to be me.

  2. Jim Sifferle says

    I don’t get worked up about the next impending natural disaster. They are out of the scope and realm of my personal control We may be subject to a massive earthquake in Oregon. If so, there will be incredible amounts of carnage and mayhem. I may even die. No amount of screeching and hollering about the coming doom will change that.

    Earthquake preparedness is at its best in areas continually subjected to them. California and Japan are the only two regions around the world that in my estimation are even close to effective in preparation, and they still get hammered when earthquakes happen. Freakish and violent destruction is a part of the natural world.

    Relax and enjoy your Friday. Write some more cool stuff and leave the worrying for others! If the Cascadia Subduction Zone wakes, at least you’ll be enjoying yourself when it happens.

  3. I used to get that… bed shaking… AWAKE!

    Oh… Keetah scratching her ears.

    Felt like it was something.

  4. ha ha ha!! too funny! i lived in oakland for the 89 quake. BIG shaker. i had a waterbed then, so 80’s. several times in the weeks following the quake i would wake up in the same condition as you… heart pounding, eyes straining, adrenaline screaming through my nerves endings… only to find my lardass cat riding out the undulations of his leaping up onto the bed.

    i used to be of the opinion that if a massive disaster happens, i didn’t wish to survive it. esp a nuclear disaster. i have no desire to be poking around in radioactive ruins, looking for food and water, waiting for my flesh to ooze off my limbs, or to die from 100 variations of horrific cancer.

    earthquakes are different though. i think i would prefer to survive one of those. been through a few already… 89 SF quake, 73 Sylmar quake, uncountable numbers of smaller ones. after all, i have lived in the SF bay area or LA my whole life. earthquakes i can handle, and i have a prepackages kit in the car. tornadoes though, that is something to worry about.

  5. Great topic Heather.

    Let me know if you ever want to geek out about building a “go” bag. ;) Prepping really helped me sleep at night after learning about how quickly things can change. Emergencies don’t have to be an epic earthquake or mega-weather related. Emergencies can also be as simple as a unexpected job loss or physical wound (i.e. cutting yourself in the kitchen). Plus, creating a “go” bag for prep Is a good exercise for downsizing too. Figuring out all that you need and want in a small package really brings out the creativity and makes you seriously question our needs and wants. :)


  6. Logan! Yes, please! I totally want to geek out with a go bag!

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