A subduction zone under the North American tectonic plate at the Pacific Rim will eventually trigger a massive quake and tsunami along the Oregon coast, scientists warn.
A subduction zone under the North American tectonic plate at the Pacific Rim will eventually trigger a massive quake and tsunami along the Oregon coast, scientists warn.

Is Portland, Oregon ready for the big one? That's the question posed by an 88-page report from the City Club of Portland, "Big Steps Before the Big One: How the Portland area can bounce back after a major earthquake." The answer, clearly, is no: Among other major concerns is the fact that fuel supplies for the region are stored in tank farms built on soil that will liquefy in a major quake, which would likely compound destruction of the built environment with an environmental calamity, and cripple the area's energy infrastructure. Existing government regulatory agencies lack jurisdiction to require any upgrade to the privately-owned storage tanks, the report says. Bridges and highways are also at risk of widespread failure.

The report's focus is on how the city and its residents could not just to survive a quake, but also recover as a community as quickly as possible. In a chapter on social systems, the report calls for community education and team-building to help prepare for a resilient response to the disruption a quake would create.

In a section dealing with Portland's residential and commercial building stock, the report notes that thousands of unreinforced masonry buildings in the metropolitan area could collapse in a quake. Also, the study points out, an unknown number of wood-frame homes lack adequate anchorage to their foundations, creating a likelihood that otherwise intact structures would become unusable by sliding off their foundations. Upgrading this connection costs in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $8,000 per house, the study says; but only a handful of houses in Portland have reportedly received this retrofit.

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Florida could be looking at an active wildfire season this year, the state Forest Service is advising residents. On Twitter (@FLForestService), the agency warned, "As Florida continues to dry out, please be extra careful with fire outdoors and never leave any flame or heat source unattended," and "Wildfire activity will continue to rise for the next several months. Get an evacuation plan ready if you haven't already."

Officials are pressing ahead with prescribed burns, hoping to eliminate wildfire fuel before the driest months arrive, reported NPR member station WUFT (see: "Florida Forest Service Calls Attention To Prescribed Burns," by Savannah Kearney). But dry weather is limiting those efforts. “If we’re going to get prescribed burning done, we need to get it done now,” said Ludie Bond, a wildfire mitigation specialist of the Waccasassa Forestry Center. “Our window is starting to close on prescribed burning.”

"Has this wk been active for wildfires?" tweeted the Fire Service. "Considering we've responded to more fires this wk than we have all yr, we'd definitely say so!"

A wildfire torched eleven homes last week, the Orlando Sentinel reported (see: "Massive brush fire kills dog, destroys nearly a dozen homes," by Christal Hayes). "A massive brush fire in Polk County has destroyed nearly a dozen homes and left a dog dead as fire crews continue to battle the blaze that has burned through 4,000 acres, officials said Thursday night. It was the second day crews have battled brush fires across Central Florida," the paper reported. "Polk County’s fire was the largest of blazes that burned across Brevard, Flagler, Seminole and Orange counties, officials said."

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State by State

South Carolina: A jury has awarded $7 million to a homeowners association in a lawsuit over faulty construction, reports the Post and Courier (see: "Mount Pleasant townhomes win $7.2M verdict over 'faulty construction'," by Warren L. Wise. "The homeowners group sued John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods of the Carolinas Inc. in 2013 over claims of rotting front porches, building code violations and defects in roofing, siding and window installation, according to Keith McCarty, one of three attorneys representing the property owners," the paper reports. Builder John Weiland Homes (now owned by PulteGroup Inc.) managed the construction from 2005 to 2009, but has countersued subcontractors who Weiland said were responsible for the actual work.

New Hampshire: Officials are on the watch for roof collapses brought on by recent heavy snowfall, the Union Leader reports (see: "Staying ahead of the snow: Fears of roof collapses grow as snow accumulates," by Jason Schreiber). "State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan issued a warning Wednesday about the threat of roof collapses," the paper reported: "A roof may collapse with little or no warning, and one common misconception is that only flat roofs are susceptible to collapse. High roof parapets can accumulate drifting snow and unbalanced loads due to the recent high winds add even more strain to roof structures."

New Hampshire: Lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry are pushing state legislation to withdraw New Hampshire from regional energy agreements that have cut New England's carbon emissions, reports the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald (see: "Battle lines over renewable energy drawn in New Hampshire," by Michael Casey/Associated Press). "Sen. Jeb Bradley, the Republican Senate majority leader who has been a leading voice energy policy in the state, said he understands the concerns over high energy prices but doesn’t expect either of these bills to pass," the paper reported. "Part of the reason, he said, is that the renewable energy sector is a growing industry and scrapping the renewable energy portfolio could put jobs at risk." Also, while withdrawing from the agreement might lower energy bills for ratepayers, the paper notes, it would also eliminate ratepayer rebates that more than make up for that difference.

Washington: Homeowners and developers are tussling over local setback rules in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, reports the Ballard News-Tribune (see: "Contention over row house setbacks mounts on N.W. 60th Street," by Shane Harms). New row houses built on zero lot lines are leaving existing single-family homeowners complaining that they can no longer access the sides of their homes for maintenance, the paper reports, in what has become a technically complicated legal dispute.