All posts by Sooner Rox AK

Geoscience major with concentration in Geophysics.

Community Preparedness


              I did a google search for hazards in Juneau and it brought up the City and Borough of Juneau Emergency Management.  It showed all of the Juneau hazards – avalanches, earthquakes, severe weather, landslides, tsunamis and seiches, floods, and fire.  Each hazard has a link to a page that describes the hazard and how often it occurs in Juneau along with what an individual can do to help themselves in the event they find themselves in this hazard or how to prepare for the hazard. 

               I also found the 2016 Emergency Operations Plan that designates the emergency organization chart, command and duties of each person.  I found the All-Hazards Mitigation Plan as well as the Avalanche Response Plan.  There are also maps showing the location of the hazards such as landslides, avalanches, floods and earthquakes hazards in Juneau and surrounding areas.

               Although the Emergency Operations Plan is from 2016, the All-Hazards Mitigation Plan is from 2009.  Although, areas for disaster probably don’t change that much in 9 years, I think as technologies have improved over the years that we could probably benefit from a more updated version of this plan.  I did find where the Juneau Borough along with FEMA are revising the Flood Hazards Zone map for the area.  Some areas are removing the flood zone while others are adding the flood zone to a particular area.  I think with the changes due to erosion, the landslide and avalanche areas may need to be updated as well.  I also found a paper written by the Earthquake Center at UAF in 2017 that talked about the new threats from a tsunami for the Juneau area. This could signify that the emergency plans could be updated to be more useful.

               Since moving to Juneau, I have wondered about such things as an evacuation plan or route and have learned through this research that Juneau does not have a tsunami evacuation route or plan.  What I found said that the tsunami risk was too low to warrant having an evacuation route or plan. The risk of a local tsunami would be more of a risk than one coming across the ocean to Juneau.  Knowing where to go in the event that a tsunami occurs would be beneficial to the community.  While our home is not in an area at risk, we work in areas close to the Gastineau Channel where there is a risk of this occurring.  Knowing where we should go in this event would make me feel better about the tsunami risks.  The Kodiak earthquake sent out a tsunami warning to the Juneau area.  While it was quickly cancelled, it makes you think of the “what if” scenario and the need to be prepared for all emergencies.

Preparedness Improvement

Earthquakes are something that really interests me, so I am alerted through my earthquake app when earthquakes occur worldwide, but I haven’t given much thought until now of what I need to do to be prepared for them.  Through working on Unit 7 and now the FEMA course materials in Unit 8, I see the need to be more prepared in the event that an earthquake occurs.  Since earthquakes occur without warning, being prepared ahead of time is essential to decrease possible injuries.

I have identified several potential hazards in our home.  One of them is that we have a bookshelf and also a china cabinet that is approximately 7 feet tall.  It is in two pieces with one piece sitting on top of the other.  It sits next to the double recliner that you will find us sitting in on most evenings as we relax after a long day.  Since we do not have this anchored to the wall, it could topple over in a significant earthquake which could cause injury or death.  We also have a cabinet in the garage that is not anchored to the wall and could create a potential hazard.

After working on this assignment, I realized that anchoring the bookshelves in the living room and the shelves in the garage to the wall was something that needed to be done.  It would be relatively easy to do and could potentially decrease injuries to my husband and myself should we ever have an earthquake with damaging ground shaking.  My husband bought some brackets that we attached to the back of the bookshelf and the cabinet.  Then we just screwed the other end of the brackets into the studs in the wall.  It was inexpensive and only took a short amount of time.  The time it took to make the improvements will be well worth it should we ever have a significant earthquake in the Juneau area.

GEOS 380 Unit 8 Blog post GEOS 380 Unit 8 Comic P. Bullmer



Unit 7, Public Education

Earthquakes are a natural disaster that can affect many parts of our country as well as around the world.  Knowing the correct course of action when one occurs is vital to protect your own life.  The ShakeOut Campaign was implemented to educate the public on what to do when an earthquake occurs.  They partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the US Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation, and the American Red Cross as well as many other local and national partners.  The ShakeOut began in 2008 in Southern California to educate the public on how to protect themselves and how to be prepared during a big earthquake to survive.   On November 12, 2008, the largest earthquake drill in history at that time occurred with 5.3 million people participating.  Today there are now more than 20 Official ShakeOut Regions in the United States and around the world.

ShakeOut Day occurs in October annually, but can be practiced anytime.  The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill occurs at 10:18 a.m. on October 18, 2018.  “Stop, Cover, and Hold On”, according to emergency managers, researchers, and school safety advocates, is what you need to do to reduce injuries and deaths during an earthquake.  Knowing what to do when shaking begins and practicing these in drills can help to cement this in your mind when the shaking does occur. 

Anyone can participate in this earthquake drill with many school districts, colleges, businesses, and various organizations participating each year.  To prepare and promote the drills, many resources are available such as posters, flyers, messaging, still graphics, Earthquake Safety Guides, and videos.  The slogan “Stop, Cover and Hold On” is a catchy phrase that tends to stick in your mind and can help you remember what you need to do when the earth starts shaking.   Having schools involved and teaching the children at a young age the immediate action to take when shaking occurs can make a tremendous difference in injuries and deaths.  The number of people participating continues to expand each year with more people participating and learning the do’s and don’ts of an earthquake disaster.  In 2017, there were over 58 million participants worldwide, almost ten times at many as in 2008 when ShakeOut Earthquake Drill first began. 

While looking at the registration for 2018 Great Earthquake Drill, I noticed that in Alaska there are only 102 participants that are currently registered.  That seems like a really small number compared to over 50,000 in Oregon or 116,000 in California.  Alaska has not had a really damaging earthquake since 1964 and people tend to forget what destruction happened during the Great Alaska Earthquake and that it can and will happen again.  Being prepared to take immediate action is vital to surviving. 

It is imperative that everyone participates in this drill and that they approach it as if it is real.  Knowledge is the best defense in surviving an earthquake.  People tend to get complacent in dealing with earthquakes when they live in an area that has small earthquakes often.  They start feeling a false sense of safety.  Some people have been in earthquakes and nothing really happened while some took cover and maybe felt they overreacted or others made them feel they overreacted.  It would never be overreacting if it was the “big” one.  Each earthquake must be respected as if it is the big one because it just might be.  Seconds can make a huge difference in surviving an earthquake.  Waiting until you know that it is the big one could very likely be too late.  Having an earthquake drill annually helps everyone to remember that it can happen at any time.  “Stop, Drop, and Hold On” when it does!

Case Study 2, Week 3 Human Impacts

Live Science, Planet Earth, Mount St. Helens Eruption: Facts & Information,

NASA, Earth Observatory, Devastation and Recovery at Mount St. Helens, Lindsey, Rebecca,

Oregon State University, Volcano World, What Were the Effects on People When Mount St. Helens Erupted,

The Atlantic, The Eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980,

USA Today, ‘I’m going to stay right here.’ Lives Lost in Mount St. Helens Eruption,

USGS, Impact and Aftermath,

The USA Today article has insightful stories of some of the people that died during the eruption, such as Harry Truman who lived on Spirit Lake and refused to leave.  Mr. Truman and his lodge was buried in the avalanche.  But the article that gave the best information on the human impact was the last article that is listed from the USGS website.  It puts into perspective the massiveness of the devastation that occurred from the landslide, lateral blast, and the lahars.  Spirit Lake, where Harry Truman lived, and all of the buildings in the area were completely buried from the debris avalanche and lateral blast.  There was extensive damage to land and civil works, more than 200 homes and cabins were destroyed and many more were damaged leaving many families homeless.

Thousands of acres of prime forest, totaling more than 4 billion board feet of salable timber, were destroyed mostly from being blown down by the lateral blast.  During the timber-salvage operations, 600 truckloads of timber were transported from the area each day.   Fifteen miles of railways, 57 bridges and 185 miles of highways were extensively damaged or destroyed along with recreational sites and trails.

Nearly seven thousand big game animals such as deer, elk and bear died during the eruption along with all the birds and small animals in the area.  Fish hatcheries were destroyed killing approximately twelve million Chinook and Coho salmon fingerlings and 40,000 young salmon.

Fifty-seven people died, mostly from asphyxiation from inhaling the hot ash.  Loggers, campers, fisherman, and families on outings were included in those numbers as well as the USGS Volcanologist David Johnston.  Over three billion tons of ash was spread across the surrounding areas, covering streets, buildings, interfering with communication systems, airports, and spreading across 11 states.

A couple of sites that I looked at had some conflicting information with numbers, but I feel confident that the numbers and information coming from the USGS are the most accurate especially since the Cascades Volcano Observatory is part of the USGS Volcano Hazards Program.  As I looked at many different resources, it seems I always gravitate back to the USGS website to see if the information is the same.  They also have great photos documenting the unbelievable devastation.

Case Study 2, Week 2 Eruption!

As I played Eruption, I found it really difficult to know when to evacuate.  It seemed I either evacuated too early and then loss of life from disease and illness became the bigger issue along with the astronomical cost or I waited too long and in an instant 10,000 or more people had died from the volcanic eruption.  I’m sure that it is the same in real life with trying to make credible decisions as to when it is the right time to evacuate since a restless volcano can show activity for days, weeks, or even months before an eruption might occur. 

I found it very frustrating trying to play the game.  I would get to a point and the game would just stop.  I had to play several times just to get through a whole 25 days of the game.  Just when I thought I had evacuated at just the right time, it would stop working.  No matter what I did, people always died.  It was very disheartening, just as I’m sure it can be in trying to figure out the best solution for real life hazards. 

Case Study 2, Week 2 Monitoring

There are several different instruments used to monitor a volcano which includes seismometers, GPS, tiltmeters, gas monitoring instruments, thermal imaging and cameras.  Seismometers detect the seismic activity of the volcanic processes.  Seismometers monitor the seismic waves that propagate through the earth when an earthquake occurs and the depths at which the epicenter occurs under the volcano.  Seismometers can detect the movement of magma as it starts to move upward in a volcano which creates seismic vibrations and earthquakes beneath the volcano.  Some seismic stations were installed near Mount St. Helens in the 1970’s but due to the unrest of the volcano beginning in March of 1980, the first complete set of seismic monitoring stations was installed.  These seismic stations send data to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) and the data is used to monitor volcanic activity by working closely with the Cascades Volcano Observatory and the University of Washington. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network monitors, records and catalogs earthquakes and seismicity associated with explosive eruptions and dome growth.  This data is used to forecast eruptions, detect explosive activity, and determine eruption dynamics.  These seismic stations also detect earthquakes that are not due to volcanic processes but are due to tectonic movement along the Mount St. Helens seismic Zone (SHZ).  

Case Study 2, Week 1 Mount St. Helens

My second case study is on the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption on May 18, 1980, in southwestern Washington.  A magnitude 5.1 earthquake triggered the largest landslide in history which then triggered the eruption which killed 57 people.

Mount St. Helens is only one of many volcanoes located in the Cascade Volcanic Arc in the Cascade Mountain Range of the Pacific Northwest which extends from northern California to British Columbia, Canada.  Mount St. Helens is the youngest of the volcanoes in this region with its formation beginning approximately 275,000 years ago and it is the most active.   It is a stratovolcano located on the convergent plate boundary of the Juan de Fuca plate and the North American plate along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. It is located about 96 miles south of Seattle, Washington and 50 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon.

The most interesting thing I have learned is how far a blast area can encompass when a lateral blast such as this one occurs.  It is amazing how many tons of ash can be expelled by a volcano and how far that ash can travel up into the atmosphere and across the land with the winds.  To see pictures of the volcano before and after the eruption helps you to see how much of the mountain was actually gone and how vastly the topography changed.  I am also amazed that more people did not die during this eruption since it is located in a populated area.

EOTW #6 Earthquake Early Warning System

1.   The Earthquake Early Warning System gives advance warning of the intensity of an earthquake and when it is expected to arrive at a location.  When an earthquake occurs, the P-Waves are the first seismic waves to radiate out from the epicenter of the earthquake.  These initial P-waves trigger the seismic monitors and alert is sent out to people and to automated systems through text, television, and/or sirens. This can give warnings of seconds or sometimes minutes before the stronger and damaging S-Waves and surface waves arrive allowing people to take appropriate action and for systems to shut down to minimize the damage and protect lives during the destructive ground shaking from an earthquake. 

2.  Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Romania, China, Italy, and Taiwan have Earthquake Early Warning systems in operation today.  Warning notifications are issued simultaneously through alerts or siren, AM and FM radio, opt-in text messages, and television broadcasts.  The United States has been working on an Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast called ShakeAlert for several years.  Budget constraints have prevented this system from being fully implemented.

3.  The earthquake early warnings systems have proven to be effective in saving lives.  Mexico’s earthquake early warning system known as SASMEX – the Mexican Seismic Alert System — has been in operation since 1993.  The September 7, 2017, magnitude 8.2 Tehuantepec earthquake off the southern coast of Mexico was the largest earthquake to be detected by SASMEX.  Mexico City’s residents were given almost two minutes early warning.  The system alerted the public by a siren sound that is sent through radio receivers and television broadcasts in several cities.  Mexico City also has municipal loudspeakers that alert the public when seismic activity has been detected.  This early warning gives people and government time to take appropriate action to save lives.  The September 19, 2017, 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico City was from a local fault and the epicenter was so close that the shaking began before the warnings could be issued.   

Human Impact Websites


The last URL was my favorite website from the United States Geological Survey.  This article covered many facets of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake.  It explains where the earthquake occurred and the communities that were affected and how vast the effects of the earthquake actually reached.  It shows a map of the subsidence and uplift in the area and the deformations that occurred.  The earthquake shaking which caused liquefaction and landslides disrupted water, sewer, gas, telephone, electrical systems, airports, railroads and sea ports.  This article talks about how the seismic instruments that were meant to measure the earthquake in Alaska in 1964 were not adequate to measure a M9.2 megathrust earthquake.  Today, we have an extensive network of 400 seismic sites across Alaska due to the impact that this earthquake had on scientific research.  This seismic information is used to create the Earthquake Hazards Map which helps to mitigate earthquake hazards.  There are some photos of some of the devastation that occurred from the earthquake and tsunamis.  Some of the other websites have better pictures that show the unbelievable devastation that occurred.  One of the names on this article was Geologist George Plafker who had worked for the USGS and had come to Alaska to study the earthquake in 1964.  Since this is the USGS website, I felt confident that the information given was accurate.  It was an overall great article.

Stop Disasters!

I played the Stop Disasters game for earthquakes repeatedly.  At first many people died and the damages were astronomical.  I became frustrated because the budget was always depleted or I would run out of time before I could do all of the things that I wanted to do to mitigate the loss of life and damages to property (and this was only a game).  I’m sure that it is even more frustrating for communities that struggle with low budgets and are unable to provide necessary improvements to mitigate the hazards of earthquakes.  I learned that it is sometimes more beneficial to demolish buildings on unstable earth and rebuild modern homes on bedrock.  This helped reduce damages and loss of life.  I did finally improve the numbers, but I just couldn’t get them to an acceptable level.