PORTLAND, Ore. -- A local earthquake expert says there are important similarities between the giant earthquake that triggered a deadly tsunami in Japan and conditions here in the Pacific Northwest.

The underlying geological conditions are almost identical, according to PSU Geology Professor Scott Burns.

We have the potential for the same exact earthquake, said Burns.

Burns points to the subduction zone located off the Oregon coast as very similar to what triggered Japan's quake, as well as the deadly quake off the Chilean coast.

The place where the two come together that's where your bending bending break... bending bending break, said Burns.

In the northwest, it's called the Cascadia Subduction Zone. It's about 75 miles off the coast.

Burns says quakes of such enormous magnitude happen on average every 500 years or so. The last massive Cascadia Subduction Zone quake was on January 26, 1700. Ironically, it was evidence of a tsunami hitting Japan on the following day that was used to confirm the Oregon quake.

The average is 500 but the range is anywhere from a couple hundred to 900 years in between... so we're within that range. It could happen, said Burns.

Burns also warns that buildings in Oregon weren't built to current earthquake code standards until 1995. Some like PSU's Student Union, Portland's public library and City Hall have been seismically retrofitted. But many buildings have not.

According to Burns, the plates coming together at the Cascadia Subduction Zone are moving at about the same speed that your fingernails grow. But, he points out, they've been pushing together at that rate for 310 years.

More:Study concludes West Coast not ready for tsunami

Also: Oregon Earthquake History

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