Opinion & Editorial

Fires, potential quakes require preparation


At the time of this writing the City of Creswell is engulfed in a blanket of heavy smoke from forest fires to our north and east. There are many large forest fires all across Oregon. These fires have destroyed hundreds of homes and small businesses all across western Oregon leaving many families without homes or businesses to return to.

From the information being reported at this time it sounds like several communities have suffered catastrophic loss. It is likely going to take a long time to recover and rebuild from these catastrophic fires. My heart goes out to all those people and families who have lost so much to these fires. 

With September being “National Preparedness Month” I would like to talk about emergency preparation and the “Big One”! The forest fires should offer a great example for us to take stock into preparation and supplies. This especially applies when you think about major natural disasters like fire, flood and earthquakes. We have all seen the major destruction that can come for fires and floods. We haven’t seen much in the way of images that can help us truly understand what we might be facing if and when a major earthquake like the Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake occurs. So, let’s talk about that.  

Earthquakes are rated by a scale that interprets the strength or intensity. They are used to measure the intensity and strength of an earthquake. The one that most of us have heard about is the Richter Scale. This is designated by Roman numerals and is based on the amount of damage after the earthquake. In both scales they go from I (1), which is mostly imperceptible to X (10), which is extreme. The length of time that an earthquake lasts is a very easy way to predict its strength. A three-minute duration will be near an XIII (8) where a four-minute duration will be near a IX (9).

Research states that a Cascadia Subduction Zone quake has a 20% chance of a magnitude anywhere from XIII (severe) to IX (violent), and could occur in the next 50 years. In both cases, the damage that we could experience could be from considerable to catastrophic. Homes and buildings could be shifted off foundations and unreinforced masonry buildings could suffer partial or total collapse. We need to face facts: when this disastrous quake hits the west coast of the United States, we are going to be severely impacted and seriously challenged.  

In Oregon, the state department of transportation predicts that hundreds of bridges and overpasses could suffer serious damage or collapse. This alone will create severe issues to get assistance to the areas that need the help. In our area of the southern Willamette Valley, I have read that very few bridges and overpasses will survive a quake of this predicted magnitude. 

Creswell, covered in smoke and ash, is a vivid reminder to be prepared.

What will this mean for Creswell? The quake will likely knock out all electricity, cell phone service, city water service and could make many of our roads impassable. Shaking of that violent nature could easily burst water pipes, especially those that are the oldest in Creswell. So, with roads being damaged to that degree, with ruptured water pipes, no electricity and communications severely tested, we are going to be forced to be self-reliant for some time. When FEMA says to be “two-weeks ready,” that is sound advice.  

FEMA, state, and county agencies have told us to not expect any assistance for at least one month and perhaps longer. That just reinforces the fact that we will need to be self-reliant for that amount of time, and maybe longer.

It is crucial to have an excellent emergency kit with sufficient supplies for every person and pet in your household. Please see the full-page ad, “Building An Emergency Kit” (The Chronicle, Sept. 3, Page 9). This was put together by the City of Creswell and has excellent information for you to read and has a supply checklist to build or expand your emergency kit.

Be prepared and stay safe, Creswell! 

Richard Zettervall is mayor of Creswell. He wrote this for The Chronicle.



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