Washington state crews target bridge repairs to get ready for future major earthquakes.
State emergency managers said they have learned a lot from previous quakes, including Washington’s Nisqually quake in 2001 and the Loma Prieta and Northridge quakes in California.
“I feel good about the things that have been accomplished so far,” said Robert Ezelle, Director of Washington State Emergency Management. “But what worries me is the fact that there is so much to be done.”
Ezelle points to the seismic retrofitting of the I-5 and I-405 interchange at Southcenter going on now as an example of how the state continues to make progress in getting ready for a major quake.
“And what they are doing is a lot of retrofitting of the older bridges up and down the I-5 corridor and around I-405 to make sure that we’ve got a north-south corridor that has a good chance of remaining open in the event of a major earthquake,” he said.
Major quakes like the one in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989 shows the real danger that comes when bridges and overpasses collapse, especially the 880 Freeway that came down.
It is an obvious comparison to Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, which was damaged in the Nisqually quake in 2001.
The solution? Bring it down and put in a tunnel.
It was the same thing at the Northridge quake near Los Angeles in 1994, showing just how delicate the freeway system is and the need for seismic safety upgrades and new construction that will withstand a quake — like what is happening now along I-5 in Lakewood.
“All of our new bridges will be designed to current standards, current bridge codes,” said Dewayne Wilson, WSDOT Bridge Asset Manager. “So, yes they’re going to be as safe as we know how to make them.”
With earthquakes comes the threat of a tsunami, a giant wave hitting the coast. Westport already has a tsunami proof tower for people to run to. One is set to be built to the south at Shoalwater bar. On Friday it was revealed that Long Beach is next in line for a tower. Ocean Shores wants one, too because driving to safety may not be an option.
“To have these vertical evacuation shelters along the coast in these areas where there’s a long walking distance to higher ground, that’s key to success right there for people’s lives,” said Stacey McClain, Washington Emergency Management Mitigation and recovery Manager.
But emergency managers say the most important thing is for people to be ready to possibly be on their own for two weeks.
“I think we’ve made some really good leaps and bounds forward in our preparedness, but the big part is getting the word out to people so that people prepare,” McClain said.