OSU researchers are now forecasting a major earthquake will rock the Pacific Northwest within the next 50 years. Many of Oregon’s schools are not ready.
Walking around Alameda Elementary School in Northeast Portland, Ted Wolf explained what would happen in the event of a magnitude nine or greater earthquake.
He described how a section of the school built on pillars would likely collapse, and the chimney would crumble.
“They come down and can kill people underneath,” he said.
Like many Oregon schools, Alameda was constructed well before scientists realized the Pacific Northwest was due for a mega-thrust quake.
This week scientists at Oregon State University revealed we could get one of those quakes within the next 50 years.
Wolf, who has a child at Grant High School, is petitioning the governor to fund more seismic improvements in our schools.
“In order to protect our children and also to serve our communities we need to invest in making schools ready for earthquakes,” he said.
Oregon has a program to help fund some safety retrofits in some schools like Alameda, but thousands of other schools are still at risk.
“In some cases, the schools could collapse like we saw in China in 2008 and in other earthquakes around the world… this could be devastating for children and families,” said Wolf.
Matt Shelby with Portland Public Schools says the district has made some improvements, but he admits much more needs to be done.
“The buildings weren't built to withstand a major earthquake,” said Shelby.
He added that the district needs more funding to do the necessary work.
“We've been kind of scratching looking around for money where it’s available,” Shelby said.
This November voters will have the chance to pass a bond that would fully retrofit Grant, Franklin and Roosevelt high schools.
A start, Wolf said, to what will be a long but life-saving process.
Parents of children in the Portland Public School district can find out what's been done to seismically retrofit their school.