By editorial board • 

County, residents must brace themselves for coming quake

A website set up by Oregon Public Broadcasting calculates just how much damage people can expect in their individual ZIP codes when a 9.0 earthquake strikes the Pacific Northwest.

Enter 97128 for McMinnville and ... yikes!

The vast majority of McMinnville is going to be an island of rubble, cut off from supplies of food, water and medicine. The city has a hospital, but when the megaquake ultimately arrives, Willamette Valley Medical Center could well be on the other side of demolished bridges.

The smaller communities of Yamhill County will fare little, if any, better. They also rely on fragile infrastructure that will likely be history when the northern area Cascade Subduction Zone experience their next major predictable (and seismologists say geologically imminent) spasm.

Fresh research from Oregon State University concludes the chance of a devastating earthquake in the next 50 years is higher than previously expected. Seismologists measured core samples from undersea landslide deposits caused from previous quakes.

The northern regions of the Cascadia Subduction Zone experiences a major quake every 350 years or so. The last one was 315 years ago. Don’t get too comfortable, however. Major quakes can strike at any time.

A 6.6 magnitude quake devastated northern Italy Aug. 23 (local time) just as McMinnville Emergency Management Coordinator Doug Cummins was warning the city council that the community is woefully unprepared for such a catastrophe. A minor quake shook Lake Stevens, Washington, just last week.

Emergency preparedness is a theme we’ve struck before, but it cannot be stressed enough. Downtown McMinnville is full of buildings with unreinforced masonry that would come down like a ton of bricks, literally, within the first few minutes of an earthquake. In fact, most buildings constructed before the 1970s are likely to be damaged. 

City officials need to heed Cummins’ warnings and take steps to make sure they are doing all they can. Unfortunately, they can only do much. The onus for action lies mostly with individual citizens. Every family and individual should stockpile 14 gallons of potable water per person and 42 meals per person. Basically, people need to be able to fend for themselves for at least two weeks.

Caring for oneself, of course, doesn’t mean forgetting other people. In any crisis, a community’s greatest asset is itself. We should start caring for each other now. It will help us care for each other later.



A sober reminder that we are in the zone and need to be calm and prepared, not scared or complacent.

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