From The Editor

Did you know? We have ‘Shakealert’ in Oregon

Potentially the greatest disaster that will ever confront us in Oregon is a massive Magnitude 9 earthquake centered offshore at the boundary of the Juan de Fuca plate of the Earth’s crust, where it jerkily grinds underneath the edge of the North American plate. These are called Plate Boundary earthquakes – an example of which occurred in Japan on March 11, 2011, causing enormous death and destruction there, as you may recall.

The last time it happened in Oregon was January 26, 1700 – determined from records in Japan, reporting when a mystery tsunami rolled ashore there after no earthquake was felt in that country, causing death and destruction. Here, that temblor sunk our entire coastline several feet, drowning whole forests (the stumps of which are sometimes visible offshore) – and a massive wave washed up against the coast range. There were no skyscrapers or brick buildings in Portland at that time to be damaged or destroyed; no paved highways, overpasses, and airport runways to be broken up and made unusable.

These have happened for thousands of years here at irregular intervals of from 300 to 800 years – every one of them just as massive and destructive as the last. It will happen here again; the only question is when. It might not be for another 500 years. Or it might be ten minutes from now. There will be no warning.

However, the seismic waves that violently shake and break up the ground take some time to travel across the land; and Oregon for the last three years has been taking advantage of that by setting up early-warning seismic measuring stations primarily at and beyond its western edge to try to capture the first violent shaking before it reaches inland. Many are on the seabed offshore, because the coast will be very vulnerable to a huge tsunami wave that may wash away coastal communities. When the earthquake hits, it may violently shake us for as long as five minutes – which will seem like an eternity – before it stops.

At best, these “Shakealert” warnings will only give us a short time before the shaking hits. How can people receive them in time? Well, warnings are to be distributed via cellphone systems. And what difference will this tiny lead-time make? For us as individuals, it would give us a few seconds to get out of vulnerable buildings, or pull the car over to the side of the road. But the “Shakealert” infrastructure offers us a number of additional benefits, as detailed in a State of Oregon press release we received on the subject on March 11. Here’s how that all works, according to that release:

ShakeAlert also can protect people and infrastructure by triggering other pre-programmed actions upon earthquake detection, such as slowing trains to prevent derailments, opening firehouse doors so they do not jam shut, activating hospital generators to ensure continuity of service, and closing valves to protect water and natural gas systems.

Two utilities in Oregon are programming an alert delivery system using ShakeAlert data, and six more have worked with a licensed vendor to connect their control systems to the ShakeAlert System. Additionally, at this time, one university, one school district, and one hospital in Oregon are end-users of ShakeAlert. These automated action implementations allow communities to recover from an earthquake faster.

In addition to enabling WEA and ShakeAlert on cellphones, the Oregon Department of Emergency Management advises Oregonians to sign up to receive local emergency notifications at; and to create and practice a household emergency plan that includes where to meet, and how to communicate in the event of a disaster (telephone networks, the Internet, and electric power systems should not be expected survive the shaking); build a home emergency kit with at least two weeks’ worth of food, water, and critical supplies for each person and pet; and pack a “go-bag” in case of evacuation.

If this is all new information to you, learn more about the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System at –  

And you can learn more about individual and community disaster preparedness at –

Letters to the Editor

“Be Radon-aware”


[I want to make Inner Southeast neighbors aware of this issue:] I recently used a radon home test kit in my Westmoreland home and the results were on the low end of the scale, but mitigation was recommended. We are moving forward with the process. Mitigation is simpler and less expensive than one might think. For more information and resources on [potentially dangerous radon gas], please enter “Radon” in the search box at –

L. A. Kranz
via email

Novel set in Southeast Portland


I’m a novelist, and for the past twenty-eight years I’ve taught creative writing in Portland Public Schools, often at Franklin and Cleveland. In the spring of 2011, I was the last writer-in-residence at Marshall, a poignant experience. The initial seeds of my new novel, The Tigers of Lents, came from that residency.

The Tigers of Lents is the story of the [fictional] Garrison family. I wrote the The Tigers of Lents over the course of twelve years, and I’m happy to finally share it. The novel publishes on March 28th.

Given that much of the novel is set in Lents, with scenes also in Inner Southeast, I believe that many readers of THE BEE would find it vivid and compelling. It can be bought online from its publisher [from whom more details of the plot are available], the University of Iowa press – – or through our local bookstores in Portland.

Mark Pomeroy
via email

Letters to the Editor may be submitted via e-mail by clicking HERE.

All letters to the editor are subject to editing for clarity and available space, and all letters become property of THE BEE.


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For our Thanksgiving editorial in appreciation of dogs, CLICK HERE