Bracing for The Big One: Is Oregon ready?

Bracing for The Big One: Is Oregon ready? »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. - It's been over 300 years since a major earthquake, like the one in Japan, has struck the Pacific Northwest.
And experts say it's not a matter of if, but when the next big one will strike.

"It's gonna be a very damaging, a very seriously damaging earthquake," said Oregon State Professor Emeritus Bob Yeats.

Coastal cities would be underwater, buildings would be in ruins, and thousands of people dead or missing.

"We all saw the videos of the tsunami of Sundai in Japan, we would expect something very similar here," said Yeats.

He said at this point in time, he doesn't think Oregon is prepared to handle a 9.0 magnitude earthquake the way Japan has.

"They're much better prepared than we are at the present time," Yeats said.

The state's infrastructure will be hard hit, too.

According to Oregon Department of Transportation Spokesman Rick Little, bridges will fail and some roads will be impassable.

"You would see at least five complete bridge failures, you would see more than 30 bridges suffer extensive damage," he said.

Highway 101 and many roads connecting Interstate 5 to the coast will see landslides and breaks in the roadway, stranding whole communities.

"There would be pockets of population centers that could very well be isolated for a period of time," Little said.

Local dams including Lookout Point and Dexter Dam could also suffer extensive damage.

"It could be as significant as some cracking along the crest of the dam or you know it could be some severe settlement of the dam," said Jeremy Brittan with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

On Thursday, April 28, and Friday, April 29, KVAL News will look at how an earthquake could affect Oregon. We'll talk with local experts and government agencies to see what they're doing to prepare for the next big one. And find out how major bridges, highways and dams could withstand a 9.0 magnitude quake.