The state commission in Oregon is warning unless sweeping seismic upgrades are made to structures in the coming years, thousands will die and the state economy could suffer billions in losses in the next big earthquake.
The Oregonian reported Monday that the Oregon Earthquake Commission was calling for 50 years of seismic upgrades to limit the damage from a magnitude nine or stronger earthquake and a possible resulting tsunami off the coast.
The commission's 290-page draft report, which focuses primarily on survival and recovery, says such a quake could kill as many as 10,000 people in the state and cause at least $32 billion in damage.
In further detail, the commission found buildings will be so severely damaged that restoring full utility service will take three months to a year in western valleys and far longer on the coast, many schools and hundreds of highway bridges would collapse, transmission towers would topple into the rivers, blocking ships and fires, landslides and explosions would be proliferate.
"So Oregon faces a very real threat of permanent population loss and long-term economic decline. Oregon, or even the entire nation, has never witnessed a disaster of this magnitude in modern history," the report said.
The draft report overturns decades of emergency preparedness doctrine that said that citizens only have to be prepared to be self sufficient for up to 72 hours during a disaster.
Experts say a massive quake in the Cascadia subduction zone is inevitable, but no one knows when.
The commission was created by the Legislature in 1991 and the report was drafted with the help of more than 150 experts.
The Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission were to meet Tuesday in Portland to vote on adopting the report.