The worst natural disaster in the history of North America has a one-in-three chance of happening

A bit north of the Bay Area is the start of the Pacific Northwest, home to major cities like Portland, Seattle, Vancouver. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much wrong here. But don’t let all the rain fool you; they’re about to be screwed big time.

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The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a much larger threat by far. This fault zone is where the Juan de Fuca plate meets the North American plate, and it stretches approximately 700 miles from northern Vancouver Island all the way down to northern California.

The above cheerful orange stripe is known as the Cascadia Subduction zone, where one part of the Earth enters the other. Most of the time, this happens smoothly. But every once in a while, there is a so-called full-margin rupture, and it’s as devastating as it sounds. The last time that happened was in 1700, and the earthquake was so big that it caused a giant tsunami that destroyed a bunch of coastal Japan across the ocean.

The Pacific Northwest is all but due for one of these, and it couldn’t be more terrifying. When the next one happens, at roughly around a M9.0 on the Richter scale, cities like Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are in for what’s been described as the worst natural disaster in the history of North America.

FEMA projects 13,000 dying, one million homeless, and 2.5 million needing food. Or roughly five to six Katrinas. And that’s not even counting Canada.

The current chances of a big earthquake happening there are one in three, while a giant, apocalyptic earthquake is at ten to one. Some good odds, assuming you’re a complete psycho who bets on human misery.

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