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Oregon and California coastal residents living on shaky ground

Dave Masko's picture

YACHATS, Ore. -- Fierce winter weather that’s blasted the Pacific Northwest coastal region over the past few days, and new warnings of a Tsunami hitting the Oregon and California coasts, has become “a strange harbinger of what’s to come,” say officials who monitor the U.S. Geological Survey and man the National Earthquake Information Center.

Both federal agencies now don’t say “if a tsunami or earthquake will hit the West coast, but when.” In fact, locals say there’s been a hard wind blowing both debris and pedestrians that’s reached as high as 80 to 100 miles per hour along the coast with rain that’s as sharp as a lance breaking windows of coastal homes and businesses.

“It sure feels like a Tsunami or something is brewing out there in the Pacific,” said one local in Yachats as the wild wind hooted and continuous rain imprisons many who’ve called this latest storm a “classic force-ten gale.”

Also in Yachats, where the mighty Pacific Ocean claimed the lives of two high school seniors last week, the threat of a Tsunami is “as real as a heart attack,” said one local who witnessed the rescue attempts for Connor Ausland, 18, and Jack Harnsongkram, 17. Both teens died after the bawling winds of winter created a 10-foot high wave that swept the Eugene natives from a rock formation along the Yachats seashore.

At the same time, Oregon State Parks and Recreation report more than 60 deaths have occurred along this same stretch of coast over the past 10 years.

Moreover, the mighty Pacific Ocean claims, on average, about 100 people each year along West coast beaches that stretch from southern California up to the very top of Washington State. Officials say many die while “in the midst of playing on the beach or standing or hiking along coastal vantage points.”

Tsunami’s causing more fear for loss of life

At the same time, pounding sudden danger-whistles are now rocking various areas of the Oregon coast for what’s become regular weekly “Tsunami” drill, while new Tsunami warning signs and a booklet on how to survive is now being distributed by Oregon Emergency Management.

The booklet, titled “Living on Shaky Ground,” points to the Great Alaskan Earthquake that created a massive tsunami along the Oregon coast in the Sixties, and an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 crushing Oregon’s coastal towns in 1993 as “good examples of what’s expected and overdue.”

It’s also known that Tsunamis have stuck both the Oregon and California coasts on a regular basis.

These “Tsunamis” can happen at any time in the Pacific Ocean with massive waves as high as 100 feet or more hitting the shoreline.

Recent earthquake drills in California have involved an estimated 7.9 million participants, while hundreds of Tsunami drill posts have been placed along the Oregon and California coasts to remind locals about the need to take warning.

Unfortunately, today’s technology can only give residents of Oregon and California or others in locations up and down the West coast only about one minute of warning before either an earthquake or Tsunami hits, say officials at the National Earthquake Information Center.

Many in California are still trying to get over the July 7 earthquake that shook a large portion of the state near Borrego Springs. Thousands of people reported feeling the earthquake that registered a whopping 5.4 and produced several aftershocks that were felt for hundreds of miles around Palm Springs.

“I’ve been here 30 years, and it was bigger than any of us have experienced,” said one local during a TV interview after the earthquake. “It shook up and down really hard. That was the big jolt, then back and forth. It feels like forever, but it was probably only 10 to 15 seconds.”

Haiti earthquake a possible sign of what’s to come

When a massive 7.0 earthquake recently hit Haiti, the result was devastating. More than 200,000 casualties were reported in a country that today is still suffering with new reports of cholera heightening the earthquake’s misery. In the wake of Haiti’s earthquake, poverty and disease are killing thousands in the sprawling tent slums caused by the earthquake.

The Haiti earthquake caused “the ground surface along Haiti’s coastline to slip on multiple faults,” states a recent report published in “Nature Geoscience.” The online earthquake information source also noted that it’s not far off to think about the California and West coast region also being “involved in slips near the surface of the Earth” when a major earthquake could do to this region what an earthquake did to Haiti.”

“When strains that has built up on faults (California sits on three major fault lines), than future surface rupturing earthquakes in this region are likely,” states Nature Geoscience.

If any good came out of the California Earthquake of 1989, said officials, “is we now will be ready for the next one.”

Living on the edge of the west coast means possible danger

When the alarm goes off, a high, shrill, piercing, frightening ring will rock central Oregon coast people to the clear and present danger of tsunamis and other natural or even man-made disasters. Oregon Emergency Management, and hundreds of county, state and local community agencies will do their best to both exercise and warn locals about what is considered an almost inevitable natural occurrence that’s long overdue to hit somewhere along the west coast.

“We’re telling them to drop, cover and hold until the earthquake is over and then to prepare for the Tsunami waves. We’re also aware that other dangers exist for the west coast, and given what happened after Hurricane Katrina we need to be prepared for any natural or man-made disaster,” said Brian Thompson who volunteers for one of the local rural fire protection districts.

“I’m ready for it. It sounds like a roar with an intense level of noise. It sure gets your attention to take precautions because the real thing may hit,” says Yachats resident Madeleine Eilers of the sirens that will be blasting up and down the central Oregon coast during a recent drill.

According to guidance produced by the International Tsunami Information Center is Honolulu, Hawaii, a “local” tsunami can hit the Oregon or California coast “within 15 to 20 minutes after an undersea earthquake hits.”

While local, regional and national emergency aid agencies will be stepping up the fear factor today during this major evacuation exercise, many coastal home owners – to include the very rich who literally live on the edge of the west coast where it meets the mighty Pacific – give no quarter to such dire warnings.

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