Bracing for The Big One: 'We're all in this together'

Bracing for The Big One: 'We're all in this together' »Play Video

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Coastal cities underwater, buildings in ruins, neighborhoods on fire, thousands missing - or dead.

The March earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, and experts say it's only a matter of time before an earthquake delivers the same kind of destruction here in Oregon.

"We all saw the videos of the tsunami of Sundai in Japan," said Bob Yeats, professor emeritus from Oregon State University. "We would expect something very similar here."
When the Big One hits, Yeats said it will start with several minutes of strong shaking

"It's likely to be somewhere between 8.5 and a 9, and the japan earthquake was a 9," he said. "It's going to be damaging, a very seriously damaging earthquake."

Then the soil would start slipping in what scientists call "liquifaction." Soil would become loose, and buildings near the Willamette River could collapse.

Yeats said aftershocks could rattle the region for months after the initial quake.

And he doesn't think Oregon is ready for a 9.0 quake.

"I'd say probably not," Yeats said.

'We're all in this together'

Lane County emergency management coordinator Linda Cook said the county is only as prepared as it's citizens.

"The more an individual household is prepared and capable of say, sustaining themselves for 72 hours, that's one less family that needs tending to in the event of an emergency or disaster," she said.

First responders, like police and fire, are training for emergencies like an earthquake on a daily basis. Cook said the minutes right after a quake will be the most critical.

"We would quickly activate an emergency operations center, do a damage assessment and take things from there," she said.

Police, fire, public works and public health officers would use the center to communicate.

"Coordination of response, knowing what each other is doing, sharing the prioritization of what needs to happen, knowing where the hot spots are," Cook said.

Both Cook and Yeats agree is important to realize an earthquake can and will happen.

"It's really a matter of we're all in this together," Cook said, "so the more prepared individuals are, then the more prepared public safety agencies are."