The Meaning of Toast
The recent New Yorker article about Cascadia earthquakes generated a ton of talk around the region and the country in the last couple of weeks. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one?
The article was seen by some as alarmist, but it presented an accurate, unvarnished view of our future. Some of the sensationalism came from secondary media who tried to tell the story, but exaggerated and distorted it significantly. One of the most quoted lines in the article was the comment from Kenneth Murphy, head of FEMA Region X who said: “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.” Many people read this as “everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast“, which is pretty different. As a manager in an emergency management agency, they have to have some initial plan, created in advance, because assessment of what happened will take time and resources all by itself, and the agency can’t wait for that. They need to trigger a reaction without that, hence the key words “operating assumption” He didn’t say, and I think didn’t mean that everything will in fact be toast. Kathryn Schultz just published a follow up article that does a great job of describing in laymans terms what is likely to happen, and enumerates various aspects of it here: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/how-to-stay-safe-when-the-big-one-comes.
As she says, it sounds pretty “toast like”. But it’s important to know that as bad as it will be, there won’t be total destruction west of I5, nor is I5 an important boundary, it’s just a handy reference point that everyone can relate to.
Here is a nice complement to these articles, an online app that can help at least Oregonians type in their address and get back some information about what to expect. http://www.opb.org/aftershock/
Clearing up the meaning of toast is good, but it changes nothing about the long road ahead for the region and all the hard choices required to become a region that can take a punch and not go down. I hope we make it.