The New Yorker published a scary article about how much of the US' Pacific Northwest will be destroyed by an inevitable earthquake and tsunami, and now everyone's freaking out.

Since the article was published, earthquake emergency kits have been "flying off the shelves." Which isn't surprising, considering that the article, entitled The Really Big One, was terrifyingly frank: “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast,” says a FEMA official referring to the highway that runs up the entire west coast. That area includes Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

As soon as the article was published, emergency preparedness kits started to sell in record numbers. This one, sold on Amazon for $90, includes "toilet bags" that allow the user to convert the bucket into a toilet. Though finding a place to put your shit will probably be the least of your problems.

Safety kit sales skyrocket after terrifying article predicts huge earthquake in the Northwest US. Image 1.

Perhaps a more useful way to prepare involves retrofitting buildings to help withstand quakes. Erik Jackson, co-owner of retrofitting company Sound Seismic, says his company's wait list went from three and a half months to six months following the article's release. That still sounds reasonable considering level of devastation the coming quake will cause.


Facts about the article:

The fault line in question isn't the well-known San Andreas fault, but the Cascadia fault line, which would impact roughly 140,000 square miles if it ruptured. The zone includes the cities Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, Salem (the capital city of Oregon), Olympia (the capital of Washington), and some seven million people.

"FEMA projects that nearly thirteen thousand people will die in the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami. Another twenty-seven thousand will be injured, and the agency expects that it will need to provide shelter for a million displaced people, and food and water for another two and a half million," the New Yorker writes.

The odds of the Cascadia earthquake happening in the next fifty years are about one in three if it has a magnitude between 8.0 and 8.6, or one in ten with a magnitude between 8.7 and 9.2. Japan's devastating 2011 earthquake had a magnitude of 9.0 and killed nearly 16,000 people.

It is estimated that 75% of all structures in the state of Oregon are not designed to withstand a major Cascadia quake. FEMA calculates that roughly one million buildings—more than three thousand of them schools—will collapse or be compromised in the earthquake.

Cover image: YouTube