Thirteen thousand dead, 27,000 injured, a million displaced, a collapsed economy, and a region that may go months (or years) without electricity, drinking water, or sewage systems. That's what some are predicting will happen in the unprepared Pacific Northwest, including Seattle, if a full-margin rupture quake takes place along the Cascadia subduction zone, as spelled out by a somewhat terrifying New Yorker article. This quake would likely hit between an 8.7 and 9.2 magnitude and be followed by a "seven-hundred-mile liquid wall that will reach the Northwest coast … fifteen minutes after the earthquake begins." The director of this FEMA region tells the New Yorker: "Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast." And with the average amount of time between quakes of that size there pegged at about 243 years—the last one was estimated to have happened in the year 1700—the area is more than 70 years overdue.
While MyNorthwest.com notes that maybe the East Coast-based New Yorker and "the people of New York [are] just irritated that the West Coast is a better place to live," other local experts acknowledge the potential for such a giant quake—but say it won't be completely cataclysmic. "The article had a lot of good information in it and there is a lot of ... preparation we need to do, but it was a little 'Hollywood' because it made it seem like it was going to be burning rubble if we had an earthquake," Washington state's head seismologist tells Q13 Fox. The real issue, he says, will be access to food, water, and power afterward. Meanwhile, a local Emergency Management rep says the article should simply remind people to have a quake kit ready. Still, one of the leading experts on the Cascadia zone tells the New Yorker that when the quake hits, "Let's just say I would rather not be here." (Read the entire New Yorker article, or here's a similar study.)