Geology nerds, take action to survive a quake | Editorial

By Mandi Johnson

Sounder reporter

So, let’s talk about that earthquake. I have effectively annoyed most of The Sounder office with my random earthquake facts, and by obsessively checking USGS’ website the day following the quake.

And now I would like to add you to my list of annoyed people! I am still relatively new to the island, I moved here on Nov. 30. On top of the fact that I only recently moved here, I was also house sitting for one of my new coworkers when the ground began to shake. I was in an unfamiliar house, on an unfamiliar island, and the earth was literally moving underneath me, jarring me awake from a deep sleep.

I was terrified.

Terror soon gave way to utter giddiness. I am what you would call a geology nerd. I took multiple geology courses in university, and had it been offered, would have also majored in geology along with my communication degree. I love rocks. An article in last week’s paper explained some small details of what caused the quake. The excitement for me lies in knowing, really understanding, what happens when an earthquake strikes.

We live in a tectonically active location, where the Pacific Ocean plate meets the Juan de Fuca plate, which then collides with the North American plate; the latter being forced downward into the Earth’s mantel. This is all so fascinating to me, and it was like a second Christmas for me to get to experience an earthquake. Especially one so large with no damage or loss of life (I wish they could all be that way).

I take my excitement with a grain of salt. I am going to remember that initial terror I felt, embrace it, and turn it into action. I’ve spent years warning people about “the big one,” and how we should all be prepared, it could happen at any time. But I myself, have yet to truly prepare for it.

I urge everyone to take this minor quake we experience recently as a wake-up call, a call to action, get prepared, the next one may not be so little. The hazard from tsunamis is not so much in the wave, but what it carries in its wake. In the event a 9.0-plus magnitude megaquake does come our way and create a tsunami, the biggest danger will large pieces of debris from boats and other items moving through fast water.

Avoiding these objects is the first step to surviving the disaster. On the islands it is likely that people will be cut off from the mainland for weeks, meaning there will be a shortage of food, fuel and medical care. Water and septic systems could be compromised. Ferry service, electricity and Internet might be lost for a long period of time.

Experts recommend that islanders should be prepared to be completely self-sufficient for seven to 10 days. For detailed information on how to be self-reliant after a tsunami, visit