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What will we be saying after the next really big one?

2019-02-18

Why are we surprised, caught off guard, when the realities that crisis inevitably brings don't fit our processes or expectations?

In her Pulitzer Prize-winning article "The Really Big One", New Yorker staff writer Kathryn Schulz tells the story of the worst natural disaster in the history of North America. According to scientists, on or about January 26, 1700, a massive earthquake in the Pacific Northwest ripped a gash in the earth's crust along a line from Vancouver Island in Canada south nearly six hundred miles into Northern California, causing massive devastation.

The geological record indicates that these "great earthquakes" (those with a magnitude of eight or higher) occur in this area of the Pacific Northwest about every five hundred years on average.

In "The Really Big One", Schulz describes for us the implications of this revelation. When it comes, the next Really Big One could impact an area of 140,000 square miles and devastate major population centers like Seattle and Tacoma in Washington, and Portland, Eugene, and Salem in Oregon. Seven million people could be cast into this parallel universe, of which nearly 13,000 people could die and another 27,000 could be injured. When it happens, we would need to provide shelter for a million displaced people, and food and water for another two and a half million.

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