Reality Planning for the Cascadia Subduction Fault

Make-believe is for kids, not for contingency planning.

by Eric Holdeman / August 3, 2019

On Thursday of last week, I attended a Military Support for Civilian Authorities meeting/briefing in Seattle. The focus was on how the military, active forces and the National Guard will respond.   

If I was to give the a-ha's a name, I'd call it "Eyes Wide Open Planning." The one thing that the Cascadia Rising 2016 Exercise did for the Washington National Guard is that it gave them a reality check. They have totally turned their planning around and are truly looking at a worst-case scenario. 

My brief notes are below:

I have really good news and really bad news.

First the good news. I listened to two presentations, one from the Navy and the other from the Washington National Guard. Both have moved beyond how they are going to save the world. The National Guard plans on reconstituting their headquarters from Camp Murray to Spokane. Any arrival of help coming to the state from National Guard elements (coming from other states is around 20 days — post-disaster, from places like Utah).

The Navy will not enter Puget Sound with ships. For two reasons: the danger of debris in the water, post-tsunami, to their ships/sailors. And, they have looked at what it takes to sustain a major ship like an amphibious assault ship and the drag on resources to sustain their operations will be more than what they can provide to the region. No ships in Puget Sound …

Also, the USAF will not land at any airport that has not been cleared by a team of people who are specifically trained to do this inspection. There are only five teams in the entire world and two are stationed overseas. They will have to inspect runways up and down the coast (three states) for a subduction fault event. If there is an aftershock, they will have to reinspect.

What makes the above good news is that they are not promising the world and doing fantasy planning.

The bad news of course is how bad it will be and the fact that any outside help will be weeks before it reaches Puget Sound in any quantity.

Plan on evacuating the region and walking out!

From an earthquake perspective — another briefing, using all sources of earthquakes — the expected recurrence for a major event is 190 years. The question is where are we in the course of events for the major fault systems that crisscross the region. We just don't know where we are in that 190-year cycle. 


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