The Pacific Northwest could be affected by earthquakes from three major nearby faults.


The western half of Washington state is considered earthquake country, with the potential for very large quakes.

Scientists have their top three.

First, there’s the Cascadia Subduction Zone running roughly parallel to the Pacific Coast from northern California past the northern tip of Canada’s Vancouver Island.

Second, the Seattle Fault, which runs east to west just south of downtown Seattle. It ends up near the Cascade Mountains and west onto the Olympic Peninsula.

Third, the South Whidbey Island Fault running from northwest to southeast of the southern tip of the island.

These quakes are capable of magnitudes from 7 to over 9.

Every year Western Washington undergoes hundreds of earthquakes. Most of them are tiny, magnitude 1 or 2, and a map shows them since 1970 around the Puget Sound area.

All remind scientists of the potential that’s placed on larger faults, as the region is compressed by geological forces beyond anyone’s control.

On the map, a larger red dot near Olympia show the 6.8 Nisqually quake of February 2001. The 1965 and 1949 earthquakes of similar magnitude are shown on larger red dots nearby. Nisqually was responsible for $4 billion in damage, but nobody died as a direct result. Unlike California, we are reminded less often of the potential devastation.

“There is so much more work to be done within the basin and within all of Washington to understanding these faults,” said Corina Forson, the state’s chief hazards geologist for the Washington Geological Survey, part of the Department of Natural Resources. (Click to Site)

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