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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

316 Years Ago Today: The Great Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake

Tuesday (1/26) marks the 316th anniversary of the last great Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake that shook the entire Pacific Northwest on January 26, 1700. The shaking extended from California to British Columbia, producing a devastating tsunami that swept along our coast and reached as far as Japan. Scientists believe Oregon is in the window of time during which another Cascadia quake could occur.

Thanks to a widely-read article in The New Yorker, OPB's "Unprepared" series, coverage by local media, and the efforts of scientists and emergency managers to raise awareness, more Portlanders than ever are now aware of our region's earthquake danger. But we still need to take action to get ready. Here's what you can do:

And here are a few highlights of what the City of Portland is doing:

  • Engineering experts know unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings are dangerous during an earthquake. Last year, my office began working with PBEM, BDS, the Portland Development Commission, and members of the community to develop a policy to require these buildings be retrofitted within a certain timeframe. Council will consider adopting this mandatory URM retrofit policy in the summer. Click here to learn more.
  • PBEM, in partnership with a steering committee of community members, is in the process of updating Portland's Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. Once complete, this document will increase our understanding of Portland's danger from earthquakes and other natural hazards, and suggest specific actions we can take to reduce the risk posed by these hazards. Click here to learn more.
  • One of the City's federal legislative priorities for public safety is to support funding for the creation of an earthquake early warning system for the West Coast. Many countries - including Japan, Mexico, and Romania - already have systems in place. Once deployed, such a system could give Portlanders tens of seconds, or even minutes, warning before feeling the Cascadia quake. Click here to learn more.

Many City bureaus have efforts underway to harden their infrastructure to better withstand an earthquake. Examples include the Portland Water Bureau's Willamette River Crossing project and the Office of Management & Finance's work to revamp the Portland Building. Every new structure built by the City of Portland now takes into account our current understanding of the earthquake danger.