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Self-reliance is key

State action to shore up bridges and other crucial infrastructure to better withstand a Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake is important. But even the best preparation won’t guarantee that key bridges are still usable and emergency responders able to reach residents.

The Oregon Transportation Commission’s monthly meeting held in Ashland last week focused preparations for what emergency officials are calling The Big One — a possible magnitude 9 earthquake that could happen tomorrow or years from now. The Cascadia Subduction Zone, where the Juan de Fuca Plate dives beneath the North American Plate, most recently produced a mega-earthquake in 1700, and pressure is building. Geologists predict a 37% chance of a quake of 7.1 magnitude or greater in the next 50 years.

The Transportation Commission was focused on bridges in its most recent meeting, specifically the 14 bridges on Interstate 5 and Highway 140 that could help get food and water into the region in after a major quake. If nothing is done to improve the resilience of those bridges — as well as unstable slopes that could bury or displace roadways — those highways won’t be usable for a long time after a big event.

Even if all the bridges that need work get it, that doesn’t mean they would survive a quake as large as a 9 magnitude.

Individual preparedness will be essential. All residents should be building emergency kits designed to last them a minimum of two weeks, and preferably longer. See the Office of Emergency Management website and the 2 Weeks Ready Facebook page.