New studies prove the potential dangers of the Cascadia Fault Line in California

Katelyn Bautista - Staff Writer, Photo courtesy of Google Images

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In January, an ocean buoy off the west coast of Oregon alerted authorities that four feet of water surrounding it disappeared. After attributing this disappearance to the shift of tectonic plates, renewed concerns over the Cascadia subduction zone arose among scientists. Only within the past few decades have scientists come to grasp the size and potential of this fault line, which stretches 700 miles off the western coast of North America from British Columbia’s Vancouver Island to northern California’s Cape Mendocino.

“I have never even heard of the Cascadia subduction zone because most Californians only rave about the San Andreas Fault,” says junior Kiana Chegeni. “I am surprised people are not more hysterical about the Cascadia because it seems much more aggressive than the San Andreas.”

According to scientists, the Cascadia poses more threats than its cousin, the San Andreas Fault. The Cascadia has the potential to create an earthquake with almost 30 times more energy than its cousin. In addition, it may generate a tsunami that the San Andreas Fault is not capable of due its side-to-side movements. According to National Geographic News, the Cascadia has already made history by causing the largest earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 in the continental United States on Jan. 26, 1700. In unleashing one of the world’s biggest quakes, the Cascadia caused a large tsunami that damaged coastal villages in Japan.

“The more we learn about it, the less we like it because it’s turning out to be a big hazard,” says Chris Goldfinger, a professor of geophysics at Oregon State University.

Scientists are unsure when the fault line will cause an earthquake; however, they are certain that when it does, the earthquake will be capable of destruction and devastation considering the Cascadia is capable of producing another 9.0 magnitude quake lasting three to five minutes long.

“In this case, three minutes—and I’ve been in a 9.0 in Japan—three minutes is an eternity,” says Goldfinger. “It is a very, very long time. We’ll lose a lot of bridges. We’ll lose our highway routes. The coast will probably be closed by down bridges or landslides or both.”

Should disaster strike, the American Red Cross encourages California residents to practice earthquake preparedness. They suggest keeping an emergency supplies kit in an easy-to-access location in all homes and gaining awareness of fire evacuation and earthquake plans for every home, school or workplace.