From The Editor

Just how ready are you?

In recent years, it has seemed as if Portland has had the best weather and the least number of catastrophes of anyplace in the world. Although we have recently been near a fire catastrophe in the Columbia Gorge, it seems not to have done nearly as much damage there as was at first feared, and the main inconvenience to Portland was a closed I-84 and very smoky air.

But, we now have good reason to know that someday we are going to get whammed bigtime – by a plate boundary earthquake that can only be compared to the similar earthquake recently experienced in Japan, in which tsunamis swept away whole villages, and a nuclear power plant melted down.

Our experience, when that time comes, will be considerably different. As we gaze at Houston, monumentally and unprecedentedly inundated by over FIFTY INCHES of rain from the stalled Hurricane Harvey, with a substantial number of all the homes in this huge metropolitan area flooded and at least temporarily uninhabitable, we may wonder if our catastrophe will be as bad as that. Perhaps Hurricane Irma makes us wonder the same.

Alas, it will be worse.  Much worse.

Twenty years ago, we didn’t even know we were subject to such an earthquake disaster. Scientists were puzzled by tree stumps way out from shore at locations on the coast – a suggestion that somehow the land was higher or the ocean lower in the recent past. When they began to explore the possibility of a large subsidence, they came across a record in Japan which not only confirmed a megathrust Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami, but put a date on it – January 26, 1700, at about 9 p.m.

You see, there had been an “orphan tsunami” – one not connected with any earthquake felt in Japan – which washed ashore and caused widespread destruction. It had traveled across the Pacific from the coast of Oregon and Washington, and the known speed of such tidal waves allowed the fixing of the time and date of the massive temblor here which caused it.

The magnitude estimate for the earthquake is around 9; the rupture it caused in the seafloor off the Northwest was 600 miles long; and the amount of displacement in that rupture over 60 feet. The violent shaking felt far inland would have lasted perhaps five minutes. Five minutes can be an eternity.

Further excavation found evidence that this earthquake was just one of a long series that extends back well over two thousand years at least. They have occurred every 300 to 900 years – notice that it has been over 300 years since the last one! – and the average interval has been around 575 years. So the next Big One may not occur in our lifetime – or in the lifetimes of our great great great grandchildren – but it also really could happen later today!

We confess that we are not looking forward to covering this huge news event in THE BEE, but when it happens, THE BEE will – we hope – cover it well for Southeast Portland.

Because the timing in uncertain is no reason not to at least start making preparations,  because – as we said – the aftermath of this disaster here would make Houston’s misfortune from Hurricane Harvey look like a walk in the park.

Just to start with: All utilities will be out, and every underground pipe system will be broken in many places. That does not simply mean no electricity or Internet or phone service for quite a long time, but it also means no natural gas service, no water service, and no sewer service – perhaps for many months. Homes will in many cases be too dangerous to enter, and may have collapsed enough to make any resources kept inside totally inaccessible.

No food, no gasoline available, and resupply will be a long time coming.

But…surely there will be a massive relief effort arriving soon afterward, as happened in Houston?

No, not likely.

It will arrive in bits and pieces at intervals, despite the very best intentions. That’s because all the interstate highways in our region will be impassible, due to the collapse of many overpasses and bridges. The airports will no doubt be impassible to airplanes because of damage to the runways. Helicopters could get in, but mass provisioning for a million and a half people just in the Portland metro is not likely via helicopters, and the streets leading to where the helicopters are may be impassible – and local vehicles may not have any fuel to get there.

In fact, there is only one bridge in the whole State of Oregon expressly built to survive such an earthquake and remain in service. Guess which one. Yes, the new Sellwood Bridge. Anyone on one side of the Willamette River trying to get to the other side will either have to take a boat, or the Sellwood Bridge. That will pose special challenges for the people who live here in particular!

Meantime, at least one, and probably both of the Interstate Bridges carrying Interstate Five cross the Columbia River will have collapsed into the river, carrying the many vehicles on them at the time down to their doom. Too bad we didn’t replace those with quakeproof bridges a few years ago when we had the chance. We will be very lucky indeed if the I-205 bridge is usable; most likely it won’t be. We will be cut off.

Our next Megathrust earthquake almost certainly will be the worst catastrophe in the history of the United States so far, and recovery will take a very long time. Are you prepared to live in your back yard for months, in hot or cold or wet weather, with no utilities, no bathroom, and no fresh food?

Maybe now you are starting to get the idea of why you have been hearing so much lately about preparing for this earthquake. Maybe you should look into joining the NET (Neighborhood Emergency Team) in your own neighborhood, and getting some of the training from Portland Fire and Rescue about how to be effective in helping your family and neighbors in case something like this happens in our lifetime. It would be useful knowledge to have in the case of any sort of disaster.

You don’t have to prepare all at once.

But you should, at the very least, think hard about it – and get started with at least some preparation steps while you still have the luxury of time to do it!

Letters to the Editor
Matt Jacoby, Eastmoreland Golf Course, Noah Yano, Portland, Oregon
The golfing guys with the trophies are Matt Jacoby in the turquoise shirt on the left, winner of the Senior Division, and Noah Yano on the right, winner of the Junior Division. (Photo courtesy of Matt Jacoby)

Local guy makes good on golf course


Local guy makes good! Matt Jacoby, a 55 year old professional painter who does most of his work in the neighborhood he grew up in, has always been an avid golfer. He finally became a member of golf’s Eastmoreland Men’s Club in 1985. His first taste of golf was with his father Walter, who took him to the driving range at age 6. His father, who was a baseball empire, teacher, and an E9 in the Coast Guard, was very supportive.

Matt has won the Eastmoreland Club Championship twice, both in the senior division. In 2015 he shot 75, then 69 on Sunday, to win. Then he won again in 2017, just two weeks after he won the City Championship. Matt, with a 4 handicap was on a roll! He has played in the City Championship several times, but 2017 was his year. The first day, Matt opened with an 80 – then bounced back with a 72 on Sunday. By the end of the day Sunday, it was a three way tie – so Matt went on to win in a seven-hole playoff, pretty unheard of for a playoff. He couldn’t have been happier. He said, “It’s an exciting game. You never know what can happen!”

Alan Smithee
via e-mail


McLoughlin repaving project


Today, September 16th, at about 1:15 pm we got stuck on McLoughlin with extreme gridlock.  Seems they were pouring a lot of crushed stone out of at least 3 trucks which made huge clouds of dust as the stone came down onto the ground, and as well they were using scrapers to level it, and creating even more dust. On top of the bad air quality today, the air was thick with very unhealthy smoke as well as the stone dust.  None of the workers, who I would assume will be exposed to this all day, had any kind of dust masks or protection from what I would consider a serious health hazard which could lead to permanent lung damage. 

I am writing you as you seem to be proactive about situations like these, and the work on McLoughlin looks as if it will be ongoing for some weeks. I assume after rains start the dust will be better but for now it is awful.

Christine Zachary
S.E. 42nd Avenue


First let me say, I love THE BEE.  So I was very disappointed to read the September headline "Construction Delays".  I watched the construction men and women work every week night from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and weekends from Friday at 9 p.m. to Monday at 5 a.m. over the month of August to get the culvert project completed in the least disruptive way possible. One night they run into problems and that is what you focus on. Where in the article did you acknowledge the good, non-disruptive way this project was handled?  I say KUDOS TO ALL WHO WORKED ON THIS PROJECT.

Judy Yablonski
Westmoreland’s Union Manor

EDITOR’S NOTE: The news we were reporting (and the complete headline was split on page one between the top and the bottom of the photo) concerned the severe traffic disruption on the day they were unable to open the highway fully, as required, by 5 a.m. That impacted a lot of people, and we told the story of why and how it happened. We have been covering this project monthly from its beginning, and have told the positive news also. Anyway, workers finally did get the Crystal Springs Creek culvert replaced, and are now moving swiftly into the repaving of the highway, the major part of which they expect to finish by the end of October – although the finishing work could continue into December – especially if the weather turns stormy.

More new businesses, and less parking


The same old story of new businesses opening with absolutely no parking. Knight Street is now jammed from 52nd to 50th, as well as 51st. Near impossible to access my own driveway, due to cars parking where ever they want. These folks for the most part are polite, but a few are loud. Seems the thing to do after yoga is stand outside your car, change clothes, and talk about the great experience! Mark my words, it won’t be long until an accident at 51st and Knight. Cars constantly make U-turns, block the street by parking the wrong way, or parking three feet from the curb. This “free” parking is great for the businesses, but has totally ruined our quiet neighborhood.

Ted Cottingham

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.


Elizabeth “Lizzie” Grossman

Portland-based journalist Elizabeth “Lizzie” Grossman, a resident of Sellwood, died at the age of 59 on Friday, July 27, of ovarian cancer.

Grossman specialized in environmental and science reporting. She authored books focusing on hidden toxics and their effect on human health and the environment. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Salon, Newsweek, Mother Jones, The Washington Post, and other publications. She graduated from Yale University.

Grossman traveled to the Arctic with scientists aboard a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, searching for signs of climate change. “Being here in the polar latitudes — in a season where day is no more than five hours of twilight – with the stark contrast between sea ice cover and open water all around me – I’m beginning to truly grasp the physics of climate,” Grossman wrote from the Arctic in November 2007.

BEE reader Donna Kane e-mailed us, “Lizzie was a resident of Sellwood from about 1998 until her recent death. She hung out in The Ugly Mug and also could be seen shopping at New Seasons, riding her bicycle, and walking up and down 13th. Today I passed her little house on Lexington Street near Sellwood Park and found a woman clearing out her things. My first thought was that she was moving back to NYC, so it was shocking to hear she had passed.” [Portions of this obituary are courtesy of BEE news partner Oregon Public Broadcasting.]


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