A bit north of the Bay Area is the start of the Pacific Northwest, home to major cities like Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and that other Vancouver no one likes. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much wrong here. But don't let all the rain, VooDoo Doughnuts, and their unhealthy obsession with soccer fool you; they're about to be screwed big time.
That cheerful orange stripe is known as the Cascadia Subduction zone. It's a fault line, where one part of the Earth enters the other. Most of the time, this happens smoothly, as if Barry White were playing in the background. But every once in a while, our douche of a planet likes to get rough and America rejects the incoming plate. This is called a full-margin rupture, and it's as devastating as it sounds. The last time that happened was in 1700, and the earthquake was so big that it caused a giant tsunami that destroyed a bunch of coastal Japan across the ocean.
The Pacific Northwest is all but due for one of these, and it couldn't be more terrifying. When the next one happens, at roughly around a 9.0 (re: very bad) on the Richter scale, cities like Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are in for what's been described as the worst natural disaster in the history of North America. FEMA projects 13,000 dying, one million homeless, and 2.5 million needing food. Or roughly five to six Katrinas. And that's not even counting Canada.
The current chances of a big earthquake happening there are one in three, while a giant, apocalyptic earthquake is at ten to one. Some good odds, assuming you're a complete psycho who bets on human misery.
As we've previously told you, San Francisco is way overdue for a major earthquake. FEMA and geologists alike are expecting it any day now. That may sound like a vain promise a la "You'll never regret investing in my vegan deli!" but the science checks out. San Francisco should be in ruins right about now.
As well as pretty much every major tech company's headquarters you can think of besides Microsoft.
It all comes down to something called the Hayward Fault. Going back to the first Hayward earthquake recorded, from 1315, it's been found that the average time between big shakeups is 140 years. Since the last big Hayward rumble was in 1868, that means we're eight years overdue for new one. Every year that passes means the chance for a gigantic earthquake only increases. It's like having no one winning the lotto for a bigger jackpot the next day -- only instead of seeing the cash increase on a distracting billboard, you see the casualty increase on a depressing spreadsheet.
Thousands of buildings destroyed, rampant looters, no water, thousands dead, and, um, a surprisingly intact subway system are all but a few things that are predicted in the case of such an earthquake. The most conservative reports estimate the damages at $165 billion (which will also be the budget of the inevitable "based on a true story" bullshit movie a few years later).
Keep in mind, this is what a "not too bad" earthquake did to the area in 1989.
Currently, an Oakland-wrecking quake in the next 30 years is at 14.4 percent, but that's up from 13.2 percent only seven years before. And it will keep going up. For those of you visiting San Francisco in the near future, be sure to visit the Golden Gate bridge and buy that famous sourdough bread, because it soon may doing its own version of Extreme Home Makeover: Earth Edition.
Original article and pictures take http://www.cracked.com/article_24292_6-horrible-natural-disasters-were-long-overdue-for.html site