Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, marked the 318th anniversary of the most recent massive earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone. Three days prior, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake that struck just off the coast of Alaska in the early morning hours of Tuesday.

Now, that earthquake was not triggered by the Cascadia subduction zone, but it did set off worries about possible tsunami waves along the West Coast. In fact, a tsunami watch went out overnight to coastal residents in Oregon, including Coos County. Because the quake occurred near Alaska, Oregon Coast residents in theory would have had hours to move to higher ground.

However, if a quake strikes along the subduction zone, an early warning system could give residents at least a minute or more to move to the safety of higher ground.

It is high time that Congress fully fund the ShakeAlert Early Warning System

According to the U.S. Geological Service, “the purpose of the ShakeAlert system is to identify and characterize an earthquake a few seconds after it begins, calculate the likely intensity of ground shaking that will result, and deliver warnings to people and infrastructure in harm’s way.”

Seismologist Lucy Jones at Caltech in Pasadena said ShakeAlert could make a huge difference in lives saved during an earthquake. For Instance, using the early warning system, train operators would have time to stop, preventing them from derailing. Utility companies could control power grids to prevent blackouts. Building managers could direct elevators to the nearest floor to evacuate people to safety. Surgeries could be stopped before the shaking starts.

And that’s just a start.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden Tuesday pushed the Trump administration to fully fund essential preparedness functions that could save thousands of lives if a major earthquake or tsunami struck Oregon.

In a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Wyden urged U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Deputy Director David Applegate to not repeat the Trump administration’s misguided approach from last year that proposed to eliminate funding for the USGS’s West Coast earthquake early warning system, ShakeAlert.

“Earthquakes and tsunamis are deadly serious business for the West Coast,” Wyden said. “It’s not a question of if, but when, West Coasters will need to call on federal resources and support. It’s absolutely crucial our earthquake early warning system is up, running, and ready to warn us if the worst should happen.”

According to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, the West Coast could soon experience an earthquake of the magnitude of the 2011 Japanese earthquake that killed more than 18,000 people.

So far, the federal budget has invested $23 million of a total $38.3 million to set up ShakeAlert. The system created by scientists at Caltech, UC Berkeley and the universities of Oregon and Washington had been on track to start operating by the end of 2018 at an annual cost of $16.1 million a year.

In a budget that runs north of $4 trillion, that is virtual budget dust. But it is vital money that can save many lives.

Jones says the cuts would kill the program: “Eliminating the $10 million (a) year that the government has been spending would stop the program and waste the $23 million that has already been invested.”

There are programs that make sense to cut, but this one fits the classic definition of being pennywise and pound foolish. The “pounds’ will come out of federal emergency funds when the next big quake hits.

And we all know it’s overdue.

– Sen. Ron Wyden today pushed the Trump administration to fully fund essential preparedness functions that could save thousands of lives if a major earthquake or tsunami struck Oregon.

 

In a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Wyden urged U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Deputy Director David Applegate to not repeat the Trump administration’s misguided approach from last year that proposed to eliminate funding for the USGS’s West Coast earthquake early warning system, ShakeAlert.

 

“Earthquakes and tsunamis are deadly serious business for the West Coast,” Wyden said. “It’s not a question of if, but when, West Coasters will need to call on federal resources and support. It’s absolutely crucial our earthquake early warning system is up, running, and ready to warn us if the worst should happen.”

 

According to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, the West Coast could soon experience an earthquake of the magnitude of the 2011 Japanese earthquake that killed more than 18,000 people.

 

Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

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