All posts by ksadamiec

Portland Disaster Plan

To avoid having Fairbanks done a dozens times, I am doing Portland, Oregon where I grew up.

a. Was it easy or difficult to find your community’s plan? Describe how long it took, or in the extreme case, that you never actually found it online.

It took about 7 seconds to find the disaster plans for Portland. I typed “Disaster Plan Portland” and the first page of the google search brought up relevant links for the area.

b. Describe one thing you think shows your community is well-prepared in case of a disaster

Flooding. Localized  flooding can still occur on creeks in the Portland area.  However large scale floods like the Vanport 1948 flood  do not occur in the metro area anymore. Vanport was a suburb of Portland that literally got wiped off the map by flooding. (It doesn’t even exist anymore) This event caused the Flood Control Act of 1950 to be passed which built dams on the Columbia River, and created flood plans. The Portland area now has levy’s and flood walls along it’s urban areas that border the river. Although minor flooding can still occur, it isn’t a “disaster”.

c. Describe one way you think an improvement could be made to your community’s plan.

Infrastructure retrofitting. The chance of having more than half the bridges in Portland be cross-able after a major earthquake is almost zero to none.  Many would collapse and many more would be damaged. The bridges in the area need serious retrofitting, but issues always arise of the cost being too high to maintain them properly to be ready for an earthquake.

d. Answer the following question: Do you feel better or worse about how well your community is prepared after reading it’s plan?

Better, because I know that people have their careers dedicated to keeping us safe in emergencies in Portland. However, serious changes need to occur to fund replacing or retrofitting ageing infrastructure.


SR-22- Cyber Security

An Improvement to the IS-22: Thinking Deeper on Cyber Terrorism

Many people don’t think of disasters such as flooding to be human caused, but just acts of nature that humans try to avoid. However, in this time period, with everything connected to computers, having security not just physically in person, but online, is essential to prevent human caused disasters. Infrastructure like nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams could be damaged and disaster could strike if necessary steps aren’t taken to ensure it’s controls aren’t subject to meddling for terrorists online.

How can we stop this from occurring?  SR-22 needs to go more in depth on what an remain connected online, and what shouldn’t be controllable online. Too much can be controlled remotely now for convenience, but this all comes at a cost to security.

Although I’m sure there are protocols that aren’t discussed present for every site, I feel like if something could compromise security and lead to a disaster occurring, it has no reason being on a computer attached to the online world. It should be on a computer without internet capabilities, and restricted access to avoid disaster.

Although thankfully the United States hasn’t experienced a cyber security breach that lead to  a massive disaster, the Y2K event highlighted how important this subject is because so many systems around the US and the world rely on computers to operate, and their failure could result in unimaginable harm.


The Great Shakeout

This article from NBC I found to relevant and important because it comes from a mainstream news company, so this article was surely read by a lot of people, highlighting public education on earthquake hazards. The article focuses on the “Great Shakeout” that occurs every year in October in which 21 million people around the world participate. The shakeout started annually in California and the idea has spread since. Schools around the United States and the world take a pause for a minute to simulate how to respond to a seismic disaster.

This article is relevant for numerous reasons. First of all, it is the largest public education event on earthquake hazards in the United States. In addition, it teaches students and other participants how to react in the case that an earthquake was going to hit their region. Because of the unexpectedness of earthquakes occurring, and many people never having experienced one themselves, how to react to one is the most important part of survival. With an wildfire or a hurricane, you have some sort of notice that it will occur whether it is fire fighters telling you flames could reach you in an hour, or forecasters telling you of a hurricane threat the following week, giving you time to vacate the area and take shelter somewhere safer. With earthquakes there is no warning, besides some areas like Mexico City which have 30 seconds warning from a complex system. By hosting earthquake drills, people will remember how to react in the case of being caught off-guard by an earthquake.

I selected this article because it is important to understand that a drill can make a large difference when the disaster actually strikes. In my second case study, I talked about how the Mexico City earthquake hit just hours after a city wide drill in 2017. With earthquakes often times felt stronger on dry lake beds, Mexico City is at risk to major damage and high human casualties. Due to the luck of having a drill earlier that day, educating the public on how to react in an earthquake saved lives. I think this article is important to the group because this is a major drill held annually, and NBC News did a good job showing how this drill is important in educating earthquake prone areas about how to react in case a big one strikes.

Resources Describing Human Impact of September 19th 2017 Mexico City – Puebla EQ

I felt like all the articles linked above  were powerful, especially the images in some.  Deciding which is my favorite was difficult between the Lake Bed Geology article (NY Times) and “Hours after an earthquake drill in Mexico City, the real thing struck” (CNN).

The Lake Bed Geology article I ended up finding to be slightly more informative because it explains how human caused changes were detrimental hundreds of years later during this earthquake. In the 1600’s there was a lake where Mexico City is today. However frequent flooding caused early Spanish settlers in the area to drain the lake over the following centuries beginning in the mid 1600’s to solve the flooding problem. However, they created an ecological nightmare as the vegetation dissipated in the arid climate and the water table dropped.  Little did they know that by draining the lake and building a city, liquefaction from earthquakes was going to be a major problem. This shows how humans impacted the earthquake  and how the earthquake impacted humans back.


Image above shows outline of former lake. (NY Times)

September 19th 2017 Mexico City – Puebla Earthquake

On September 19th, 2017, the 32nd anniversary of the infamous 1985 Mexico City earthquake, a 7.1 moment magnitude earthquake occurred in the Mexican state of Puebla. Near the metro areas of Mexico City and Puebla, it affected also affected the state of Morelos.

Very similar to the Juan de Fuca plate, the Cocos plate is a microplate in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of North America that is subducting itself under the North American and Caribbean plates. However, the event that occurred on September 19th, 2017 was not a subduction mega quake, but an earthquake cause by a local normal fault within the Cocos plate.  Occurring at ~50km in depth, the tremor falls within the boundaries of the subducting slab, but the fact that the focal mechanism of the earthquake is normal-faulting, it suggests it doesn’t have to do with the megathrust boundary contact.

What I  found interesting about this event is that it coincidentally occurred on the anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the metro area does an annual earthquake preparedness drill on September 19th to avoid casualties on the scale of 1985’s event. This emergency response drill occurred at 11:00am local time, just 2 hours before the 7.1M earthquake that occurred at 1:14pm local time. Having this event coincidentally fall on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 event, just after a metro-wide drill, left Mexico City very prepared for 2017’s tremor. However, the earthquake still resulted in ~250 fatalities and thousands of damaged buildings.

One important thing to know about Mexico city is that the majority of the city is built on a dry lake bed that was drained beginning in the 1600’s. The soft lake sediments remaining in the valley undergo liquefaction during earthquakes, which amplifies the motion of the seismic waves. Due to the liquefaction of the soft sediments, the city experiences significant damage and casualties during earthquakes in the region.

Earthquake Stop Disasters! Response

First of all I felt I needed to say the background noise in the game was rather annoying and drove me insane so turning the sound off was essential.

The game showed me how important community planning is in disaster areas. If you have a tsunami hazard, you shouldn’t build a hospital on the beach, and if there is an earthquake hazard, you should build a hospital on stable ground. I believe proper community planning is the #1 way of mitigating damages and human casualties as natural disasters will occur regardless, and by planning to have public services in easy to access and “safer” areas, it can help save lives.

Tracking the Cascadia Subduction Zone

I wanted to learn more about modern methods at tracking tectonic margins in the Pacific Northwest. I stumbled upon this article that describes how new technology is being used to track movement along these hazardous regions.


The article is from Nature Journal of Science and talks with Jerry Paros on the risks at the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Paros, an inventor that works in the geoscience industry designing instruments to track tectonic movement at the sea floor want to help monitor the lurking threat off the coast. Although there were no instruments at the time of the 1700 megaquake, scientists are preparing for the next tremor by positioning bottom-pressure sensors that are used to observe sea floor movements that would be otherwise undetected. These sensors measure the pressure of the water above them, and changes in this pressure allow the scientist looking at the data from these sensors to determine vertical sea floor motion. Unfortunately, these sensors are only able to gage vertical movement, and different methods need to be employed for measuring horizontal movement. There is no warning issued from these sensors, however, they can measure long term changes in tectonic movements that can help geophysicists better understand the risk and motion of the subduction zone. Unfortunately, monitoring for earthquakes in general has not been adequate at evacuating people ahead of a tremor due to little to no warning these events occur with. However, the best way to prepare on the coast is to form a solid evacuation plan for coastal communities. The best warning system I have heard of so far in the world is the Mexican Seismic Alert System which sounds the alarm up to 60 seconds ahead of time.


What do you think about this method of tracking the Cascadia Subduction Zone? I think it would be cool to be able to give a short warning for earthquakes like in Mexico. Even 30 seconds can make a difference and allow people to cover under a desk to protect from falling debris.

Human Impacts of the 1700 Cascadia Earthquake

Because this earthquake occurred in 1700, information such as death toll is very limited compared to recent events. My favorite resource I found of the damage that occurred is the University of Washington article on the event. There is very little known on the losses that occurred on the coast of the Pacific Northwest due to no written accounts of the event in the region. However, Japan was hit by the resulting tsunami wave which crested at 10 feet in a village 300 km north of Tokyo. It destroyed 13 houses in the village and sunk a cargo ship with 30 tons of cargo on board that was bound for Tokyo (then known as Edo).  I think it is accurate because Japan at the time was very developed considering it was 1700, and had history in handwriting versus in orally told stories like in the Pacific Northwest.

Quick Overview of 1700 Cascadia Earthquake

The 1700 Cascadia Megaquake occurred on January 26th off the Southern Oregon Coast. The megaquake, having an estimated magnitude of 8.7-9.2 sent what was known as an “orphan tsunami” across the Pacific Ocean slamming the Japanese coastline with 6-10 foot waves. This event was caused by the Cascadia Subduction Zone. This convergent plate boundary subducts the Juan de Fuca plate underneath the North American Plate from Northern California all the way to Vancouver Island in Canada. The tectonic activity of this subduction zone is responsible for historical earthquakes, tsunamis, and also volcanism in the Cascades Mountain Range. The tectonic setting of the Juan de Fuca plate subducting just off the west coast of the Pacific Northwest gives the region not only a threat from earthquakes, but also threatens the coastal communities with tsunamis which would wipe out towns within minutes of an earthquake occurring. Due to this event having occurred in 1700, it will be interesting to see scientists use out of the box methods to research this event. I believe with proper research there is a lot to be learned, even 318 years after it happened. By continuing to work on the case study assignments in the course, I would like to teach others taking the class about the hazards facing North America that can strike without warning.



1700 Cascadia EQ and and 2017 Central Mexico EQ.

For my case study, I want to learn about the 1700 Cascadia Earthquake and the 2017 Central Mexico Earthquake.

  1. 1700 Cascadia EQ

This earthquake is known to have occurred in 1700 because of geologic records and historical records of an “orphan tsunami” in Japan. Occurring off the coast of Oregon, this event is important to me because I am from Portland and I’ve heard many times that the region is overdue for another megaquake.

Through this case study I want to learn about:

  • What geological records helped geologists put a date on the megaquake
  • Is the Pacific Northwest ready for another 9.0+ and what can be done to make it ready
  • How often events like these occur off the Oregon coast and if all of them produce Tsunamis


2. 2017 Central Mexico EQ

Last month I was in Mexico City about 4 months following the tremor that shook the capital city. I was at the Museum of Geology there and I was surprised to find that some exhibition rooms were closed to the the earthquake damage (Maybe this was the ultimate geological exhibition?). This made me interested in learning more about the earthquake and the seismic dangers in central Mexico.

Through this case study I would like to learn:

  • Mexico City experienced a large earthquake in 1984 as well. Were these earthquakes connected and caused by the same fault?
  • Mexico City is surrounded by Volcanoes. Can large earthquake trigger spikes in volcanic activity?
  • Is the area prone to megaquakes of 9.0+? ;or are events like the 1984 and 2017 tremors as strong as earthquakes get in the region.