Cascadia Earthquake Anxiety, Part 2

(Featured image credit: Illustration by Christoph Niemann; Map by ZIGGYYMAJ /Getty)

Dear Readers:

Unless you missed Tuesday’s column or have suffered a traumatic brain injury, you should recall I began answering a question submitted to me by a Portland woman who is anxious about the “Cascadia Earthquake.”

Let’s refresh your recollection with a link:

Cascadia Earthquake Anxiety, Part 1.

Now that I have calmed down enough from reading the New Yorker article that spawned hundreds of thousands of sleepless nights for those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest, I am ready to render my advice to Portland Gal.

Of course, you know I can’t do that without pontificating and making this all about me, right?  

Let’s revisit one section of Tuesday’s blog.  I’ll copy and paste it so you don’t have to go to Herculean efforts of a click back in time.

Breaking Down My Anxiety Over the Article

  • Fear of death = fear of leaving my son.
  • Fear of system wide destruct of communication methods = fear of not being able to connect with my son and other loved ones.
  • Fear of catastrophic road failures = fear of not being able to experience this with my son and family together in one place (preferably my house because I stock vodka in large amounts).
  • Fear of economic collapse after earthquake = fear my family will be forced to relocate from the only home I’ve ever known to someplace terrible like Omaha. And last but not least:
  • Fear that I will survive the earthquake but my son will not, or worse yet, I will never know what fate befell him = fear of living with the greatest loss imaginable.

As part of my personal growth spurt (why does that sound dirty somehow?) I’ve begun digging into my emotions and trying to understand them on a deeper level than my previously preferred paradigm of “experience, react immediately from a place of pain, marinate in hurt.”

Think of your anxiety over the possible earthquake as an iceberg for a moment.  


Now look again at my anxiety list above.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

For every bullet point, the first item represents the “above the waterline” issue (what I thought my fear was) and the second represents the “below the waterline” issue (what that fear is based in and its true and deeper meaning).

So how does that help me?  It allows me to transform my fear into tangible tasks that can be accomplished with specific efforts so I don’t feel impotent and afraid.  Instead, I feel empowered and useful.

Let’s go back to my list as an example.

Fear of leaving my son without a mom:

I continue to spend as much quality time with him as possible and engage him in serious conversations as well as regular goofy ones.  I am starting a journal for him titled, “Things I Learned in My 40s You Should Know Now.”  Finally, my will is up to date and he will be taken care of should I die.

Fear of not being able to connect:

I am setting up two out-of-town contacts for my family to use if the phones aren’t working here, and I’ve started an online correspondence course on Smoke Signals for Dummies. I am also looking into walkie talkies.

Fear of being separated from my family:

We have established a meeting place, but I am dealing with the fact that sometimes life moves beyond your control.  It is entirely possible we will be separated from each other and the only way to prepare for that is the aforementioned vodka.

Fear of economic collapse and possible relocation:

I’ve come to the conclusion if the Pacific Northwest is uninhabitable after the earthquake, I will stay to rebuild it. Property prices will be nice and low and I’ll take advantage of people’s misery and make a fortune!  

Oops, I confused myself with a divorce lawyer. 

Fear of living with the greatest loss imaginable:

There is nothing you can do to prepare for that.  Not a good god-damned thing.

That’s the risk you run when you fall in love, whether it’s with your kids or your spouse or your friends or your pets. It’s the beautiful tragedy of the intrinsic link between love and loss.  You cannot have one without the other.

Jesus Christ on a Popsicle Stick; Where’s the Advice?

Since I’ve made such great use of bulleted lists this morning, I’ll put your advice in the same format.  Pay attention!

Practical Solutions:

  • Prepare an emergency kit with enough food and water to last at least ten days.  Just do it, you’ll feel better.
  • Strap your water heater if you haven’t already.
  • Strap your house to its foundation if it isn’t already.
  • Locate your gas shut-off valve and make sure you know how to use it.
  • Stash some cash somewhere safe.  Be sure to tell me where just in case you forget.
  • Consider purchasing walkie talkies for you and your family.  
  • Put rubber-soled shoes under your bed.  You’ll need them if the earthquake comes at night because broken glass will be everywhere.
  • Update your will.
  • When at the coast, familiarize yourself with the tsunami evacuation route.  Consider falling in love with Central Oregon and vacationing there instead.* 

Touchy-Feely Solutions:

  • Share yourself with friends and family and live each day as if it could be your last.
  • Remember that any number of tragedies can befall you or those you care about at any time.  I am not trying to add to your anxiety but rather to point out stressing over an earthquake that may come 1,000 years after your death is pointless.  You are much more likely to get run over by a bus!
  • Avoid busses.
  • Do a deep navel-gaze on your below-the-waterline stuff.  Write lists like mine identifying your immediate concerns, what they may actually mean, and specific ways to address them.  For example, did you grow up in a chaotic family?  Were you powerless to predict what could happen on any given day?  Maybe there’s something much bigger going on than your fear over an article you haven’t even read.
  • Read the article you are too afraid to read.  Here’s a link: The Really Big One.  Face your fears, woman!
  • Then read this: Another perspective on the Cascadia earthquake.
  • And this, written by the author of the original story that shit all over everybody’s day on July 20th. Author of New Yorker story takes a step back.
  • Keep in mind the generation of panic over the earthquake is a big money-maker for some people, so take what you choose to read from now on with a giant grain of salt.
  • Purchase my earthquake kit for $4,000.  It’s a really good one.

Be prepared but put most of your efforts into living a wonderful life filled with purpose and love.

Otherwise, the terrorists win, and by “terrorists” I mean Juan de Fuca and North American, two plates whose long-standing beef will be the end of us all.  

Or will it?


*This message brought to you by Sunriver Resort!

PS: Please share!


This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Scott

    Well it looks like I have a lot to do. New will to include Granddaughter as well. Hmmm I think they live too close to me we need to diversify locations so I can escape to their city. Ok pm me for the cash stash and where do I send the $4k to?

  2. Kristi

    Holy Shit! I just read the article. I’d be crapping in my pants if I was up there, too! I’m going to make me a disaster kit and store it in my attic. You never know when a flood, or tornado…hell even The Walking Dead can hit Atlanta. Yikes.

  3. The Yetti

    My emergency kit is going to have only 2 things: vodka and cyanide pills. No, bourbon and cyanide pills. Wine? Crap, this kit is bigger already. I’ll put my cyanide pills in my bar along with a pack of cigarettes. And a joint. Ta da!
    Anyway, I have no interest in living through it.

  4. Lulu

    I put off buying any supplies and making a kit of any kind for a loooong time because I simply didn’t feel up to rotating through food, water, and other items every year as was often recommended. I suddenly felt so relieved and empowered to finally do it when I found out about a few simple things: Mountain House freeze dried pouches last 15 years *min* (their cans = 25 yrs *min*) and water comes in 5 yr pouches (expensive) and a proper water filter lasts for years/decades.

    Once I realized I could go with options that didn’t require so much maintenance/waste/expense, I totally started to build one last spring (even before the early spring “live off your kit” publicity event), and I do feel so much better. As a single mom, I felt I simply had to do something basic, and I think what I have is better than basic by a long ways. So relieved to have pieced together a decent stash!

    Finally, two words: CAR KIT. Get some basics in the car, since (for most people) it’s where you are even if you’re not at home. Make one! Maybe start there…

  5. Pingback: Quaking In My Boots |

Comments are closed.