Sue Graves: What she’s trying to do for Taft school kids should catch on coast wide…surviving the “Big One.”
Okay, okay…nobody likes to talk about it but school district Safety Coordinator Sue Graves told the Lincoln County Commission this week that sooner or later the Oregon Coast is going to get hit with a one-two punch. Punch One: An 8 to 9 Richter (or higher) earthquake as the North Pacific plate slides under the North American plate. Damage will be substantial. But a similar earthquake last year in Japan was survivable. Just ask the millions who did survive. What many didn’t survive was Punch Two: A Tsunami, that may range in size from 35 feet or higher. The one in Japan was estimated from 21 feet to 125 feet, depending on the topography. And Graves says the Northwest is currently in an interval of time when a Cascadia earthquake could happen. Geologists say it’s a 10 to 15% chance every year.
Graves said rather than dreading a catastophe, we ought to be planning for it so we can ensure the survival of as many people as possible, starting with our school children. In Taft, to be exact where much of the area is in a tsunami zone. Graves says we learned a lot from the Japan earthquake last year in that it was plain that people who did manage to survive the shaking and tsunami were isolated for a while. Many pitched tents and built fires that people gathered around. There were runs on food stores. Water was no longer available in many areas.
Graves says should the “big one” hit the northwest during a school day, students will be channeled up hill to a predetermined gathering area. There, they will find shelter provided by 52 portable garage-like canopy enclosures. There will be twenty-four 55 gallon barrels of drinking water, 1,300 bottles of bottled water, 1,300 water purifying drinking straws, and 1,300 sets of high calorie survival food bars.
In addition, Graves told the commissioners, that there will be 1,300 rain ponchos and 1,300 mylar blankets. And the steel storage container it was all stored in will ensure it all stayed safe and ready to use if and when that fateful day comes.
Total cost for 1,300 students, teachers and support staff to protect the children, $33,292. Graves was asking the county commissioners to chip in like other entities she’s approached. The commissioners gave her $2,500. She says she’s gotten commitments from Lincoln City, the Bay Area Merchants Association (Taft), and other entities which also includes State Farm Insurance which she says is very interested in her project.
Graves emphasized that surviving means lasting long enough for help to arrive on the coast. She predicted it could take weeks for help to arrive due to buckled roads and destroyed bridges. She said although help would eventually arrive, the Willamette Valley too would have beeen hit almost as hard as the coast. And that could cause even further delays.
Again, having enough food and water along with minimum sheltering for people for what may be a prolonged period, will be critical. Graves said every community in Lincoln County should be planning ahead and stockpiling what is believed to be sufficient emergency supplies, stored in higher elevation areas that survivors can get to on foot. Investing in these supplies and contingencies is no different, she says, than investing in other aspects of public safety and health.
Anyone who knows Sue Graves also knows that her campaign for donations is throwing down the gauntlet to the rest of the county and all of its communities to chip in and create their own survival kits for all who will desperately need them when the big one comes. And come it will. We just don’t know when. But, she says, we can be prepared when it does.
There you have it. Sue Graves has opened the door to a rational approach to do something about what we can’t change, but which could ensure the survival of most everyone who lives through the Big One.