This still from a 2009 WSDOT earthquake simulation video shows how gnarly the waterfront would get after a big quake.
Above: Nat Geo on Seattle's imminent quakey doom
Over the weekend a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck California's wine country, injuring 120 people, ruining a lot of buildings, and setting a mobile home park on fire. The Nisqually earthquake that damaged much of Seattle's infrastructure in 2001 was a 6.8, with its epicenter 11 miles northeast of Olympia. But seismologists say if an earthquake of that scale hit closer to Seattle, we're pretty much screwed.
Reason being, the city rests on top of a lot of loose, oftentimes wet sediment, which all in turn rests on top of a giant fault line. That fault line also runs through Puget Sound, meaning quakes would likely trigger tsunamis. A UW study last year found that a quake on the Seattle fault line would trigger around 30,000 landslides and ruin 10,000 buildings. UW scientists spent this April gathering experts to chat about the M9 (Magnitude 9) Project, an attempt to prepare the region for an inevitable mega-quake.
The last time an earthquake hit the Seattle fault line was 1100 years ago, which native Salish people attributed to A'Yahos, the god of shaking who presides over region. Native tales also document the 1700 Cascadia subduction zone quake, which was one of the massive magnitude 9 quakes UW is looking to prepare the area for.