Imagining life “After the Big One” hits a major U.S. city

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I live in the suburbs west of PDX. I am hoping the big one hits after I’ve moved back east after I retire.

Coincidentally: Fred Meyer has been selling canned vegetables, beans, and tomatoes for $.49 / can the last few weeks. I’ve got about three dozen cans stuck in a bin. That and my supply of cold cereal and dried milk should get me through three weeks.

A water filter would be nice. The creek down the street flows all year but is way full of street crud and animal poop.


The Japanese did the same thing in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. It’s thoroughly researched and unsentimental and seen through the eyes of a fragile child.


Sigh. We were just getting things fixed up after the nuclear attack.
A Day Called X


I need to resurvey my kit and change out some stuff – but my wife always laughs at me because I never keep less than 20 pounds of rice in the cupboard and I have enough canned stuff to make about 150 servings of some sort of soup (hominy, beans, dried chili, bullion, etc.) – I’ve got other stuff, too, but even while I don’t think there’d be much starvation after even a 9.0, I have zero interest in spending 10 hours a day down at the food distribution tent.

And yes – get a camping water filter – they’re good for 500+ gallons, which is plenty to keep you in drinkable water for a couple of weeks and still have plenty to share with neighbors.


Of course, if OR and WA citizens put as much effort into lobbying lawmakers into funding infrastructure improvements as they do thinking about their emergency stash, the coming Big One won’t be nearly as much of a trial.


This New Yorker article (much passed-around, apologies if you’ve seen it) was an amazing read on “The Really Big One.” Not just discussion the effects that it might have, but on the incredible detective story involved in understanding that it happened once, before written history existed in the Pacific Northwest, and that it will happen again:

Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.” — Kenneth Murphy, head of the FEMA division responsible for Cascadia

More by the same author on what it might look like, and how to stay safe:


With my StatGear Storm Rescue Knife, i’ll be able to ride this one out.


PS the link to the article is here:


Did you go with the flashy yellow or the bad ass flat black?

This was done six years ago for Outside Online.

I have trouble reconciling my feelings on this. I really, really, REALLY don’t want a disaster like this to happen, not to me and my family, not to total strangers on the far side of the globe.

And yet, this kind of disaster, when fictionalized, is the single most entertaining thing I can imagine. The destruction, the scramble to survive, the postapocalyptic aftermath. It tickles those same synapses in my mind that fired off when I was a ten-year-old kid tempted to break windows in a long-abandoned ruin of a shack, or set fire to action figures and send them aloft on a kite string, or blow up Kenner Star Wars toys with low-yield fireworks. Or shove my thumb right through the concave section of this type of Christmas ornament:

I love people and living things and the beauty of our planet… but there is a part of me that truly wants to watch the world burn, I guess.


Watching the world burn is one thing. Watching my house burn is something entirely different.


Like John Goodman; I focus on being prepared…


What’s key is that amusements remain adaptable.


This really needs to be a Portlandia sketch

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Ah shit I keep procrastinating on making one but a earthquake kit is supposed to be my summer project this year. As long as the earthquake doesn’t hit until this fall… well I guess we might be marginally prepared by then, but it’s also worth noting [and @stefanjones already kind of mentioned it] that preparing for a earthshaking and surely surreal event, something that you can not even begin to comprehend unless you have experienced a major earthquake, is EXTREMELY ineffective at a citizenry level.

Real preparedness requires action at a State or Federal level, reinforcement of infrastructure, emergency management planning, planning emergency food and water access for an entire city, earthquake fire preparedness, planning emergency landing strips and reinforcing existing ones, and even though I already said infrastructure, since Portland IS the city of bridges, I feel it is worth specifically mentioning earthquake proofing bridges as a separate task.

A home earthquake kit is not going to stop me from being crushed in the very old, not reinforced, 3 story brick building I spend the majority of my day in. It will not stop the bridge I might be on when the Big One occurs from collapsing, nor prevent a transformer from falling on my head. What we really need is a Federal west coast earthquake preparedness agency, or something like that.

Edit: Forget to mention the very creepy soil liquefaction, which I would imagine would be BAD in a city with a river running through the middle of it and a history of sinkholes.


Water, both prestaged in bottles and potential in filters is more important then food. It takes mere days to die of dehydration, and (generally) weeks to die of starvation. Food is important too, but prioritize water.

For earthquakes, food in the cabinet can’t be counted on. Your supplies need to survive the effective destruction of your home. It needs to be accessible if your home collapses. And your supplies need to be portable enough to carry as you try to escape the fires that follow.

This is hard to solve if you live in condos, apartments or other homes without a back yard or storage.

Don’t forget the toilet paper, work gloves and wire cutters.

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Filters are super cheap on amazon. When I was in the scouts, I tried a lot of different kind.

I’d say, go for iodine as a last reserve, DON’T go for the UV devices. They suck and are only really good for 20oz at a time at most.

There are also combination filters + purifiers that are rated for how many gallons they can do. Some are high flow rate. Those are the best.

A filter alone is typically only good for live bacteria and bigger, but the combo rigs also handle endospores and possibly viruses.


The larger problem at least in inner city Portland would be finding a source of water to filter, the Willamette river [The one that runs through the middle of Portland] doesn’t count unless said filter can handle raw sewage and prescription drugs.

Edit: However I could see a filter being useful if you have a 40-80 gallon rain barrel or something like that.

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