Federal grant helps CWU geology and PNW research

Kejuan Coleman, Staff Reporter

CWU and six other west-coast universities have recently been a part of a $3.7 million grant from the United States Geological Survey. This grant, which was finalized late last summer, is for the development of a more defined earthquake alert system, called “ShakeAlert”, that would help to predict and read oncoming earthquakes before they arrive.

Of the full grant, $441 thousand will be invested into CWU’s ShakeAlert system, which will primarily develop and refine the system. CWU’s contributions include analyzing local GPS stations in real time, developing resilient systems that can observe and survive the earthquakes, and further ShakeAlert’s programming, which has been continually in developed for the last ten years.

“This is an ambitious undertaking, and we are pleased that the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array (PANGA) and the CWU Geodesy lab can contribute to it,” CWU Geologic Sciences Professor said in an interview with Public Affairs.

With the world still recovering from the earthquake that hit Mexico City, many are still wondering if the Pacific Northwest has the capability to mitigate damage that would impact the greater salish sea, or even predict it.

Around Washington schools, there have been more worries about multiple schools with structures that are not safe and have a possibility of collapsing. One in three Washington schools live in a quake-prone area and attend class in buildings constructed before seismic codes were even adopted, according to a Seattle Times analyst.

Governor Inslee and his team have stated in a report by the governor that infrastructure reinforcement is low on his priority list. The governor’s Resilient Washington Subcabinet released a “to-do” list that shows how low on the list these repairs are, according to a Seattle Time analyst. Higher on the list are drills for public schools and funding for programs that offer a quicker and less expensive fix.

The big reason new buildings aren’t on the top of the list for public investment is because they would take too much time and money to rebuild the structure of most of the schools with a modest price of $15 Million to accomplish. For Washington and the possibility of an earthquake, “Washington faces the second-highest earthquake risk in the U.S., after California.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that a magnitude 9 megaquake and tsunami from the offshore Cascadia Subduction Zone could claim more than 10,000 lives across the pacific northwest and cause more than $80 billion in damage.