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Bend 'worse-case scenario' command center in big earthquake

BEND, Ore. (AP) — A new state report says Bend would be the center of the state's emergency response in the worst-case scenario of a catastrophic earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Oregon Coast.

The Bulletin reports that the Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge Program's Bend campus is the fallback site for the state's Emergency Coordinating Center if the current command center and two other locations in Salem are knocked out.

The Bend site was listed as backup Emergency Coordinating Center in the state's newly revised Cascadia Playbook, a 100-page outline of actions to be taken in the first hours and days after the disaster. The playbook covers the first two weeks after an earthquake.

Scientists have predicted a possible 9.0 scale earthquake and subsequent tsunami along the 700-mile subduction zone could kill up to 25,000 people in the Pacific Northwest. Areas east of the Cascades are expected to escape with light to moderate damage.

That could make Bend the linchpin in state plans for a worst-case scenario disaster.

"The youth facility has plenty of capacity for people to bunk down, IT capability and communications facilities," said Andrew Phelps, director of the state Office of Emergency Management.

Oregon Youth Challenge Program is a tuition-free, residential alternative high school associated with the National Guard that draws at-risk students from across Oregon.

The campus 9 miles east of Bend is currently undergoing a $10 million renovation and building program to expand its facilities, including a new dormitory. Buildings are also being seismically retrofitted to withstand earthquakes. When work is completed, the campus will be able to house 240 students.

Because Oregon lacks the major military bases of neighboring California and Washington, the Redmond Airport would also likely be a central staging ground if airfields at Portland, Salem, Eugene, Medford and other points west of the Cascades are rendered unusable.

"We don't have that large federal footprint, like Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, where you can expand operations without much additional planning," Phelps said. "We need to make sure we are on the same page as our federal partners about what they are going to bring, and when and where they are going to bring it."

Redmond Airport has two runways. Its principal runway is 7,038 feet long. The secondary runway, at 7,006 feet long, has recently undergone a $10.1 million upgrade to bring its lights and paving up to Federal Aviation Administration standards. The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, the military's main heavy lift transport and cargo aircraft, can take off and land on runways as short as 3,500 feet.

Phelps said Central Oregon would also likely be where many people leaving the earthquake zone would go, especially if major north-south highways are knocked out.

Source: USGS, NOAA