Earthquake, tsunami playbook outlines response strategy

State geologist says there's a 40% chance the 'Big One' will strike in next 50 years

From left to right: Dean Perez, director of administrative services for Clatsop County; Tiffany Brown, Clatsop County emergency manager; Governor John Kitzhaber; and Scott Lee, Clatsop County Commissioner pause for a photo during a kickoff event for the Cascadia Playbook Sept. 9, after touring the Emergency Operations Center for Clatsop County at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Sept. 9, 2014. (Cory E. Grogan/Oregon Office of Emergency Management)
From left to right: Dean Perez, director of administrative services for Clatsop County; Tiffany Brown, Clatsop County emergency manager; Governor John Kitzhaber; and Scott Lee, Clatsop County Commissioner pause for a photo during a kickoff event for the Cascadia Playbook Sept. 9, after touring the Emergency Operations Center for Clatsop County at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Sept. 9, 2014. (Cory E. Grogan/Oregon Office of Emergency Management)

WARRENTON, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Taking steps for when the “Big One” hits the Portland area, the state outlined a playbook on Tuesday for its response strategy.

The Cascadia subduction zone is due for a massive earthquake that has the potential to devastate the Portland area and trigger a troublesome tsunami on the coast.

Experts say the earthquake is a matter of when not if, so is the state prepared for when it hits?

State Geologist Dr. Vicki McConnell has become known as Dr. Doom over the years. She earned the nickname after crunching 10,000 years’ worth of Oregon geology information and summarizing the coming offshore quake as having the potential to be a magnitude eight or higher.

“It’s not going to be just the coast. It’s going to be the earthquake, which will shake from 2 to 5 minutes. It will affect all the way into the Willamette Valley. It will affect the metropolitan areas, and it will affect even the east side of the state,” said McConnell.

The closest Oregon has come to disaster-like conditions was in late 2007 when a powerful winter storm hammered the coast with hurricane force winds that brought down trees. Residents in the area had no power or road access for several days.

Clatsop County Commissioner Scott Lee said the state now has a good plan in case of a similar situation.

“In conversations with tsunami events, some of our first assistance is going to come by sea – kind of a Normandy-type landing – and this is the perfect position to do that and there’s also a helicopter landing area here,” said Lee.

According to Lee, the United States Navy would also bring in assistance from offshore, including food and other supplies. Camp Rilea would serve as a beach head.

Governor John Kitzhaber signed the playbook into action on Tuesday, saying it addresses all aspects of recovering from a natural disaster that modern-day Oregon has never seen.

“Transportation, communication, health, food and water, shelter and the idea is sort of exactly the questions your asking and have in place a coordinated plan,” said Kitzhaber.

McConnell said there’s a 40% chance the potentially devastating earthquake will strike in the next 50 years.

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