Corvallis is getting ready for an event not seen in the Pacific Northwest since 1700: a major Cascadia subduction zone earthquake.
Because damage is likely to be extensive, Oregon State University has established the Cascadia Lifelines Program, an initiative with federal agencies, utility companies, the Oregon Department of Transportation and others to help improve critical infrastructure performance, save lives and shorten recovery time.
Among projects underway are studies of Willamette silt, a common valley soil that provides the foundation for roads, pipelines and buildings. Researchers are also evaluating the risk of landslides, which are likely to occur in the Coast Range and make roads impassable. An analysis of building performance and reinforcement techniques also aims to make structures safer during an earthquake.
Oregon State students also are being trained to assist others in a natural disaster when emergency response agencies are likely to be overwhelmed. The Disaster Incident Response Team, known by its acronym as DIRT, teaches skills such as emergency patient care, building assessments and urban search and rescue operations. Students can also receive training by taking the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) physical activity course.
Up until about 30 years ago, scientists didn’t think the Pacific Northwest was vulnerable to earthquakes. However, research by Oregon State professors Robert Yeats, Chris Goldfinger and others has demonstrated the frequency of past Cascadia quakes. Goldfinger has calculated the chance of a severe quake in the next 50 years at about 30 percent.