The Sumatra Earthquake

by Jerry K.

It was the first great quake of the century.  It registered 9.0 on the Richter scale and hit the subduction zone just off shore of Sumatra, midway around the “Ring of Fire” from us.  The shock was felt as far away as Mt. Hood.  The tidal surge affected the West Coast though only minimally.  The main force of the resulting tsunamis, as we know, swept west across the Indian Ocean instead of the Pacific.  The death toll is staggering, nearly 150,000 at the last estimate.

The question people should ask themselves is, “Could it happen here?”  It has before and will again.  In the early 1700’s the Oregon Coast was hit with a Great Quake about the size of the Sumatra Quake.  This “subduction zone” quake occurred deep under the ocean floor just off the coastal shelf.  The resulting tsunami devastated local Indian fishing villages.  This was, of course, before written records.  Geologists found the evidence in a layer of salt that lies about 7′ below the surface of the soil.  This led to a deeper check and found that Great Quakes hit the Pacific Northwest every 300-500 years.

This is old news…we’ve been preparing for quakes for years.  Emergency planning programs, ones like FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Portland Fire Bureau’s Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET), etc. are in place.  Every coastal community is protected by off shore sensors and beach sirens to warn of tsunamis approaching.  This helps warn people but won’t stop the economic devastation.  Places like Tillamook where the dairy pastures will become salt marshes and the cheese factory will be swept away.

Buildings in Portland and as far away as Seattle will collapse, particularly old unreinforced masonry buildings.  Large warehouse type pre-fab structures you see in industrial parks will fall after a great quake.  Factories will be closed, bridges and infrastructure destroyed, hospitals, schools and churches damaged sometimes beyond repair.  It would be worse if it wasn’t for the upgraded building codes and earthquake preparedness measures put into place in the past decades.

Due to all the planning the death toll will not be in the hundreds of thousands.  But they are expected to be in the thousands, maybe ten thousand dead and one hundred thousand left homeless from the quake itself.  The economic damage will be in the hundreds of billions.

The way you can mitigate damage to your family is to prepare physically and spiritually.  Get a 72 hour kit ready and then your one year food storage.  Reduce your debt and save money for emergencies.  Pray every day and live the gospel.  “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”  (D&C 38:30)

72 hour kit tip: Will you be dressed for the weather when the earthquake hits?  If it happens in the wee hours of the morning where are your warm clothes and shoes that will protect your feet from broken glass?  Keep a set of shoes next to your bed that will get you through the glass and put a pair of sweats or other easily donned clothes in your 72 hour kit.

Jerry K.

Article from 2004 Noah’s Ark Newsletter/LDS Intelligent Living

Photo source: public domain – U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements – Indonesia (Jan. 14, 2005) – The aftermath of the Dec. 26 tsunami which destroyed Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia.


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