A Japan-Strength Earthquake Would Level Seattle

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If it weren't for the tsunami that followed, Japan and its high-tech infrastructure would have come out of its mammoth 9.0 level earthquake with flying colors. But what about Seattle? We get earthquakes here. Hell, the Seattle Fault runs directly through the city. Turns out that things probably wouldn't have gone so well if the Big One had hit here.

The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan posts a reader's letter today saying that a headline you won't be seeing after an earthquake around these parts is "Millions saved in Seattle by good engineering and government building codes."

Quoting from a KQED interview with the Tom Brocher, director of the Earthquake Science Center at the U.S. Geological Survey:

A magnitude 9.0 or above quake in the Pacific Northwest is expected. Those quakes, which are the product of vast and deep faults, are characterized by their severity and the duration of shaking when they strike . . . A quake in the 9.0 range occurs in the Pacific Northwest region every 300--500 years. The last one was in 1700, which scientists know because of a tsunami that was recorded in Japan at the time.

Turns out that a 2008 study concluded that some 1,000 buildings in Seattle--especially older brick buildings, pre-1930--could topple in a strong (6.7 or stronger) earthquake. A 9.0 monster would be devastating.

The Seattle Fault runs directly through Seattle and Bellevue, and is thus considered the most likely culprit of a potential major earthquake in the area.

And at 300 years since the last big 'un, we're about due.

That's probably the reason that Seattle hotels come with these buttons in the elevators.

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Jeff Greene/Flickr

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