Even as well organized and prepared as Japan is, the trauma involved with a 9.0 earthquake is still quite obvious in this video.
The video may not be able to convey exactly what it might feel like during such an event, but a lot can still be learned from just watching the events as they unfold.
Notice the high-rise buildings in Tokyo miles away from the epicentre swaying during the event. The high-rise buildings in Seattle may respond in much the same way as this during an actual event. Unreinforced masonry structures, however, may not fare as well during this sort of event.
By and large, the earthquake itself, though scary, doesn’t actually kill people like the falling of materials, debris, and structures do during an earthquake event — Being out in the open is usually the best place to be during earthquake events.
Japan is years ahead of us with regard to earthquake damage mitigation and preparedness — Their systems for emergency management have been in place far longer than anything we’ve designed or built. Coastal towns pretty much all have some sort of tsunami flood wall built, and buildings and other structures are all built to the latest standards as it might relate to earthquake preparedness.
Towns built on the Washington coast have no such preventative measures. There are no tsunami or flood walls built specifically for what might occur after an event such as what’s portrayed in the video — Our coastal towns are presently wide open to any threat the sea decides to throw at them.
Our inland cities are littered with thousands of unreinforced masonry buildings, and a great many of our bridges are at substandard or below and average in age dating back to the 40’s and 50’s.
What we witnessed in Japan on 11 March 2011, will eventually happen here. View the damage done in this case, even with mitigation technologies in place, and a smart well thought out and deployed emergency notices and warnings system. Even with the latest in technology, lives were still lost.
Japan’s coastal communities took a direct hit with tsunami waves much higher than 40 meters (130 feet) — Waters poured over the walls and inundated communities as if the walls weren’t even there in the first place. At best, the walls gave residents a few more minutes of time to escape … Communities on the Washington coast don’t have the luxury of tsunami walls at all.
Pacific Northwest Emergency Management agencies have been working full tilt on these very things since it was learned and proven that a Subduction Zone exists a mere 50 miles off of the coast. Known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone, it has the capability of producing a mega-thrust earthquake much the same as we witnessed in Japan in 2011. The underlying problem that we here in the Pacific Northwest face today with regard to a mega-thrust earthquake, is that we aren’t even close to being prepared for just such an event.
Japan was presumably even more prepared, and yet we still see what happened in it’s case.