The federal government predicts that if a 9.0 earthquake snaps during high tide on the Cascadia Subduction Zone - which runs along the coast of Del Norte County - there will be 2,868 fatalities from the Californian North Coast to British Columbia, with nearly one-third of those deaths (910) expected in Crescent City, the tsunami capital of the Lower 48.
Hoping to curb those impacts, a joint state-federal response plan for a Cascadia earthquake and tsunami was unveiled Thursday and signed by state and federal officials during a daylong briefing with stakeholders in Eureka.
Efforts to develop the Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake and Tsunami Response Plan started in response to the 2005 disaster in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. The March 2011 tsunami that devastated parts of Japan and destroyed the docks at Crescent City Harbor reinforced the project's merits and expediated the plan's completion.
"Building a true national culture of preparedness means building plans from the local level up," said FEMA Region IX Administrator Nancy Ward. "It is just not the most populous areas but the most at-risk areas that need our attention. The completion of this plan shows the determination of county, state, federal and non-profit and private sector entities to focus on working together to support the ultimate end user - their friends and neighbors. The communities ... deserve the best chance to survive and recover from threats, including earthquakes and tsunamis which can be a reality here. This plan helps them get there."
This plan is specifically for FEMA's Region IX, which only covers California's stretch of the Cascadia fault, including Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties.
Cindy Henderson, emergency services manager for Del Norte County, said that although response plans like this have long been in place for communities in SouthernCalifornia, it is a major milestone for communities near the Cascadia fault.
"I think it's real significant because it plays such a huge part in Del Norte's emergency preparedness," Henderson said. "This is truly an extensive plan, which is good for us."
Representatives of federal, state and local emergency response agencies will hold seminars on the response plan in late October.A seminar is planned for Crescent City from 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Crescent Fire Protection District building.
The Cascadia response plan will be practiced in a full disaster exercise in March 2014 as the featured disaster exercise for California Office of Emergency Services' annual exercises.
More information about the Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake and Tsunami Response Plan can be found by searching "Cascadia" at www.caloes.ca.gov.
Reach Adam Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org.