ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

clear-night
79°
Very Hot
H 95° L 71°
  • clear-night
    79°
    Current Conditions
    Very Hot. H 95° L 71°
  • very-hot
    95°
    Today
    Very Hot. H 95° L 71°
  • very-hot
    96°
    Tomorrow
    Very Hot. H 96° L 71°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

National
How likely will the ‘big one’ occur in our lifetime?
Close

How likely will the ‘big one’ occur in our lifetime?

What To Do If An Earthquake Hits

How likely will the ‘big one’ occur in our lifetime?

Editor's Note: This story first appeared July 16, 2015 and answers questions inspired by an article written by The New Yorker's Kathryn Schulz. Her story, "The Really Big One," was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. The Pulitzer Prize is considered journalism's highest honor.

>> Read more trending news 

Some in the Northwest have admitted to losing sleep after the New Yorker's terrifying article on how the "big one" will devastate Seattle and everything west of Interstate 5. 

"If the entire [Cascade Subduction] zone gives way at once, an event that seismologists call a full-margin rupture, the magnitude will be somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2," wrote Kathyrn Schulz. "That’s the very big one."

People are calling into the Seattle Emergency Management Office asking what they can do -- and if Seattle is prepared. 

Debbie Goetz with the department said the city is prepared for the "big one."

She says the best advice for people living here is to have an emergency plan: Discuss with your family where and how you'd meet up in the event of an emergency that knocks out cellphone service.

Local experts -- from Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, Seattle Emergency Management Office, and The Seattle Times -- weighed in on the Cascadia earthquake during an Ask Me Anything on Reddit

John Vidale, director of the PNSN, wrote in the AMA, “ Overall, it was a well-written and documented article. The scenario left an impression of much greater devastation that is anticipated to occur, however."

As the science in Schulz's article is correct, below are seven questions and answers that may bring a little calm. 

1. You say the average frequency of such an event is 1 in 300 years. Do you know if the distribution is roughly uniform? My guess is that it would tend to decrease over time -- but I've also just googled and found articles that suggest continental drift is actually speeding up. Or is the distribution of big earthquakes something that we don't really have a good handle on at the moment? 

Good question. At the highest magnitude, the magnitude-frequency distribution is no longer exponential. The Gutenberg-Richter distribution is recast as the truncated or doubly-truncated Gutenberg Richter distribution, which reflects approaching a physical limit on the possible size of earthquakes.

I think the global limit is thought to be somewhere around 10. But remember, breakage of Cascadia has a small chance of triggering the Queen Charlotte fault, which has a small chance of triggering big faults along the Aleutians. So in the case of very, very, very rare and large events, one is not limited to just one fault.

2. Will Seattle (or anywhere in the PNW, really) ever implement earthquake early warning systems as mentioned in the New Yorker article about Japan?

We [PNSN] are currently testing earthquake early warning in the Pacific Northwest, in fact I have it on my phone now.

It needs more testing and full funding before it is ready to be released to the public, however. 

3. How would a major earthquake affect the nearby volcanoes? 

The same process of subduction - where one tectonic plate dives under another - is responsible for both our earthquake risk and the creation of our volcanoes. In other places, like Chile, volcanic eruptions have followed major earthquakes. Several of Japan's volcanoes became more active after their M 9 quake and tsunami in 2011. But I haven't heard of any good evidence that Mount Rainier or other Cascade volcanoes erupted in a serious way in 1700, the year of our last megaquake. 

4. Any chance of a NW quake setting off the Yellowstone caldera? 

Zero. And a Yellowstone eruption is so unlikely and so prevalent among questions from the public that it is a major source of irritation to many scientists. 

5. Did you see inaccuracies in the New Yorker article or was there anything about it that bothered you? 

Overall, it was a well-written and documented article. The scenario left an impression of much greater devastation that is anticipated to occur, however. 

6. What are the chances "the big one" will never come in our lifetime? How much do most of us not understand about probability and statistics when it comes to natural disasters like earthquakes?

If the chance it will come is 15%, the chance it won't come is 85% (if we're expecting to live another 50 years). However, there are plenty of "pretty big ones" to worry about as well, so you're overwhelming likely to see some action in the PNW.

Statistically, we're more likely to have another deep source quake like the Nisqually, that occurred in 2001. Chances for another one are above 80% within the next 50 years.

7. How realistic is it that 3 days' supplies (the minimum recommended) will enable my survival of the Very Big One in Seattle? And how many days' supplies do you personally have in your home ready for an earthquake?

We recommend people prepare themselves for 7 to 10 days vs. three. For a major quake, life won't be back to "normal" after just three days. I've got enough at home to make it through a week, and also keep a stash of stuff in my car as well as at work.

Beyond supplies, I always encourage people to talk about their plans - especially around communication, which we know will be affected. Where will they be? How can they get back together? Where could they meet if not at home? 

OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images
(Getty file photo OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Close

How likely will the ‘big one’ occur in our lifetime?

Photo Credit: OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images
(Getty file photo OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Read More

News

  • A North Carolina man charged in the death of his 2-month-old child faced a judge in Burke County on Monday.  >> Read more trending news  Maurice Dashawn Springs, 23, is charged with second-degree murder.  Officials said deputies were called to Carolina Health Care System – Blue Ridge on Sept. 4 after an unresponsive 2-month-old boy was taken to the hospital by his parents.  The baby was transferred to Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, but he died on Sept. 9.  The Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division and Burke County's Department of Social Services started an investigation after reports from emergency room staff and at Levine's.  According to a search warrant, deputies believe the child died of shaken baby syndrome. “No visible signs of trauma to the head or anywhere on the child. That’s the next logical place you go – shaken baby,” Sheriff Steve Whisenant said. Officials said CT scans showed multiple subdural hematomas consistent with a traumatic brain injury. Springs’ family said he loved the baby with all his heart, and they are standing by him. The child’s mother was in court but too distraught to talk afterward. “As a parent and a grandparent, any time there is a young child involved all of us struggle with thinking about what a child went through,” Whisenant said. WSOC-TV learned that deputies interviewed Springs for hours. They are not revealing what he said during that interview prior to his arrest. 
  • Two Florida residents are facing several charges in Nassau County following an arrest on Friday. >> Read more trending news  Deputies with the Nassau County Sheriff's Office were in the area of South 14th Street and Sadler Road at 11:38 p.m., when they saw a man and a woman riding bicycles: one with no lights on the bicycle and the other bicycle with no lights on the rear, according to the report. The deputy said they began riding in the middle of the road and were almost hit by another vehicle due to their lack of lights.  The Sheriff's Office said the deputy pulled over Aaron Thomas, 31, and Megan Mondanaro, 35, at 870 Sadler Road and stated there was a strong odor of an alcoholic drink emitting from both of them. Thomas told the deputy that they had come from Hammer Head Bar and had beer. According to the arrest report, the pair both had bloodshot, watery eyes, and their speech was slurred. The deputy performed a field sobriety test on Thomas until he refused to complete it. Deputies said he did poorly on the portion of the test he did perform. The report said Mondanaro did not speak to the deputy after being asked to take the sobriety test. The report said the two were arrested and placed in the back of the patrol car. While the deputy was outside the patrol car, the pair took off their clothes and began to have sex, according to the arrest report.  NCSO said Thomas was removed from the car while naked by the deputy. Thomas was able to knock the deputy down to the ground during the process and began to run through the parking lot, the report stated. Thomas ran past several cars at a traffic light and then in front of a CVS store and in the parking lot of other stores. Deputies said they eventually caught up with him at the Cold Stone Creamery ice cream shop and arrested him. Thomas was taken to the Nassau County Detention Facility after he was medically cleared and faces charges of exposing sex organs, DUI, a threat against a public official, and an unnatural and lascivious act.  The arrest report stated during a breath test, he blew a .145 on the first breath and a .146 on the second. The breath test was taken three hours and 21 minutes after the arrest. Mondanaro became violent and started kicking one of the deputies several times after Thomas was initially removed from the patrol car. She is facing charges of exposing sex organs, DUI, resisting with violence/simple assault, and an unnatural and lascivious act.
  • General Mills is pulling some bags of flour from store shelves over E. coli concerns, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. >> Read more trending news  The company announced it was voluntarily recalling five-pound bags of Gold Medal Unbleached All Purpose Flour. The recall only affects bags with a use by date of Sept. 6, 2020. According to officials with General Mills, the flour could potentially contain E. coli. The bacteria was discovered during sampling of the product. FDA officials said there have not been any reports of confirmed illnesses connected to the recall. 
  • Three teens in masks were shot and killed by a homeowner Monday morning in Rockdale County, Georgia, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  Investigators determined that the juveniles, one age 15 and two age 16, were involved in an exchange of gunfire with the White Oak Court homeowner shortly after 4 a.m., the Rockdale County Sheriff’s office spokesman, Deputy Lee Thomas said, in a statement emailed Monday afternoon. All three juveniles were from Conyers, Thomas said. WSB-TV said two of them were brothers. Deputies were called to the single-story home to investigate a report of shots fired. They found three “young men” lying on the ground outside, Sheriff Eric Levett said at the scene.  “Upon our arrival, the deceased was at the edge of a driveway and partially in the roadway,” he said. “The other young man was a little bit down the street, where it appears he was running.” Deputies administered first aid to him and another teen. Both later died after being taken to a hospital, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The juveniles allegedly approached the residence and attempted to rob three people in the front yard, Thomas said. One of the attempted robbery suspects brandished a gun and fired at the residents before the homeowner returned fire, according to the statement. The robbery victims were not injured in the shooting. No charges have been filed. “They did discover masks on the young men,” the sheriff said. “That rose our suspicions.” Levett said the homeowner, who has not been identified, is in his late 40s to early 50s. WSB-TV reported he is a truck driver. Carlos Watson, who lives next door, said more than 10 emergency vehicles responded quickly to his otherwise quiet cul-de-sac after the shooting.  He said he thought he was dreaming when he first heard a series of about five gunshots. The second round got him out of bed.  “I heard somebody yell for help. Then I heard it again, and that’s when I came outside,” Watson said. “There was one gentleman laid out and our neighbor, Mr. Jenkins, was helping him out.” Brian Jenkins, a candidate for Rockdale County Commission chair, said he waited until deputies arrived before he went to check on the teen lying in his yard, screaming for help. The teen appeared to have been shot near his shoulder and was wearing a mask around his neck, Jenkins said.  “I told him to just calm down and relax,” he said. “It will be OK. Just stop moving.”  Watson has lived in the neighborhood off Flat Shoals Road for about a year and said random crimes are not common.  Investigators are still trying to determine who owned two different types of guns recovered from the scene.  
  • Around 100 SeaWorld employees were told Monday they're out of a job. >> Read more trending news  The employees worked for a call center in Orlando, that handles customer service for all of SeaWorld's 12 parks across the country. Some of the laid-off workers said they're really upset because their jobs are now going to people in other counties. A few of the laid-off employees said they were recently sent to Central America to train people, but said they had no idea they were training those workers to replace them in their own jobs. Empty parking spots in an otherwise full lot paint a picture of what happened behind closed doors at SeaWorld's corporate call center in Orlando. 'I got a call from human resources and they said that, effectively immediately, I no longer had a position there,' one former employee said. The employees said that, without warning, about 100 people were laid off. 'Everything from monthly payment plans, from annual passes to selling new annual passes, park tickets, setting up dining reservations, animal encounters, tours,' the former employee said, describing the workers' jobs. SeaWorld released a statement, saying 'it undertook a careful review of its operations and made a business decision to restructure its call center operations.” The statement also reads, “This move will allow us to better and more efficiently scale our call center to meet customer demand, especially during peak months. Due to this change, approximately 100 employee positions at the Orlando call center have been eliminated and operations have been shifted to a third-party vendor, effective immediately.” One former worker, who is a graduate student, said the company agreed to pay workers for the next 60 days but she's not sure how she'll be able to afford school now. 'People didn't really have a chance to prepare and, for me, that just doesn't sit right,' she said. 'That's a lot of money and a lot more debt that I’m not prepared to take on.' SeaWorld officials said the company recognizes the layoffs are not easy and it plans to offer severance benefits and outplacement assistance to help former employees with the transition. Former employees said the new call centers are in Jamaica and Guatemala.
  • Kathy Gadd is devastated over the death of her daughter, 39-year-old Jennifer Kalicki, who was found dead Sunday morning in her apartment in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.  >> Read more trending news  'She was the most wonderful daughter a mother could ask for and I can't believe I'll never see her again,' Gadd said in an interview Monday.  Jennifer's boyfriend, Eric Griffin, has been arrested and charged with domestic assault and battery. 'He murdered her. He murdered her,' Gadd said. 'There's no two ways about it. I want him to get the most they can give him.' Authorities said that, when they found Jennifer Kalicki after 8 a.m. Sunday, she was already dead. They could see trauma on her face, neck and extremities. On Saturday morning, 24 hours before Kalicki was found, authorities said, she sent disturbing texts to Eric Griffin's sister. 'He's ripped the door open. Choked me, slammed me to the ground,' the text messages read. 'Please help me. He's losing it...I just need help. I'm tired of him making me the victim.' 'During those text messages, the victim was begging the defendant's sister for help,' prosecutor Suzanne Wiseman said in court. 'She also indicated in those text messages that the defendant slammed her on the ground and the defendant had strangled her.' Griffin's sister never called the police. At the time of Kalicki's death, Griffin had just gotten out of the Billerica House of Correction, where he was held on a drug charge.  Griffin was released from jail on Wednesday. The only reason he got out is because Kalicki went to Lowell District Court and paid his $250 bail. Half a week later, Kalicki was dead- - at the hands of the man she helped get out of jail, investigators said. 'I just hate him. I hate him so much,' Gadd said. 'And he's going to try and say he's sorry. That's the type of person he is. He's not sorry. He's just sorry he got caught.' A Lowell District Court Judge has revoked Griffin's bail. Griffin is due back in court Friday for a dangerousness hearing.