Don’t ever say city council didn’t tell you anything useful.
Today they approved an ordinance to ensure residents know exactly how dangerous this place really is.
Consider this: you may escape being sandwiched in the viaduct during the “big one,” but you still have an active volcano in your backyard, miles of waterfront susceptible to tsunami, a city of slide-prone, waterlogged ridges, and a giant, bowl of a lake that’s been known to be home to things called “seiches.”
(Don’t feel bad, this one got some blank looks from the council too)…
“It’s oscillating wave action between smaller bodies of water,” said Council member Richard Conlin.
“Like a ripple?” asked Council member Tom Rasmussen.
“A BIG ripple,” said Conlin.
According to a study, compiled for council by the city’s Susan Chang and Brennon Staley and UW’s Kathy Troost, eight-foot waves were reported in Lake Washington after the 1891 Port Angeles earthquake caused massive landslides. And seiches damaged houseboats, buckled moorings and broke water and sewer lines in Lake Union following the 2002 earthquake.
When it comes to Rainier, the danger won’t likely come from an ash blast like Mount St. Helens, but from a swiftly moving debris flow called a lahar.
The ordinance, required as part of an update to the Growth Management Act, is simply informational. It maps and explains the hazards, but doesn’t do anything to beef up regulation or emergency response. Conlin told the council that the necessary safeguards are already required as part of the city’s building code, but noted that this doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be room for future improvements to tighten things up.
“The departments will look to make sure we’re doing what we need to do when it comes to regulations,” he said.
Meanwhile, for those who don’t want to live in the shadow of Mother Nature’s Russian roulette, maybe it’s time to move someplace safe… like North Dakota.