Geologist commemorates 1992 earthquake
Humboldt County's very own earthquake and tsunami expert Lori Dengler weighed in on the ever present chance of natural disasters in what she considers to be the most seismically active region in the contiguous 48 states.
"A lot of people say to me that they're so scared of earthquakes," Dengler said Saturday. "I say back to them I'm scared of driving along Highway 101's safety corridor, because the odds are I'm much more likely to harm myself driving home today than I am in another North Coast earthquake."
Dengler added that doesn't mean people shouldn't worry about earthquakes, but means that what you do during an actual earthquake makes a huge difference.
Saturday's talk as she at the Clarke Historical Museum in Eureka was the first of three public events this month commemorating the 1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquake.
"The most important takeaway of any talk I give is this: when the ground starts shaking you need to immediately protect yourself," she said and bent down to take cover on the floor. She said the most dangerous thing people do is run outside because they could trip and fall and ultimately maximize the chance that things will fall on them.
The 1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquake was a 7.2 magnitude temblor that hit the region on April 25, 1992. Its 6.5 and 6.6 aftershocks caused over $60 million in losses and was the only Humboldt County earthquake to gain a FEMA major disaster declaration.
The 1992 quake was also the first time a major quake influenced federal legislation, according to Dengler.
In 1992, Don Hull, the head of the Oregon geology agency convinced Sen. Mark Hatfield, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, that the U.S. was unprepared for larger Cascadia earthquakes and tsunamis. This, according to Dengler, started a program focused on tsunami modeling in five Pacific states which led to changes in tsunami warning center operations.
Dengler said Eureka is sitting on the last edge of the North American Plate and that the plate is really thin, just about 8 miles below the surface.
"We're really edgy," Degler said. "All of us in coastal Humboldt County are never more than 8 miles away from, (the Cascadia subduction zone), the only fault capable of producing a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. So we're special."
Two more public events are scheduled for this month from Dengler for the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group at the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center and the Wharfinger Building in Eureka.