On Monday, The New Yorker published an article by staff writer Kathryn Schulz titled "The Really Big One."
The article explains that seismologists have determined that parts of the West Coast of the U.S., including Oregon and Washington, are due to be hit by an earthquake and tsunami that will completely devastate the region.
It's difficult to pick just one paragraph from this incredibly terrifying and well-written story, but this sort of sums it up:
To see the full scale of the devastation when that tsunami recedes, you would need to be in the international space station. The inundation zone will be scoured of structures from California to Canada. The earthquake will have wrought its worst havoc west of the Cascades but caused damage as far away as Sacramento, California—as distant from the worst-hit areas as Fort Wayne, Indiana, is from New York. FEMA expects to coordinate search-and-rescue operations across a hundred thousand square miles and in the waters off four hundred and fifty-three miles of coastline. As for casualties: the figures I cited earlier—twenty-seven thousand injured, almost thirteen thousand dead—are based on the agency's official planning scenario, which has the earthquake striking at 9:41 A.M. on February 6th. If, instead, it strikes in the summer, when the beaches are full, those numbers could be off by a horrifying margin.
Schulz also writes that this event could happen a thousand years from now, or could happen tomorrow. "Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast,” a FEMA official told her.
Oh, and everyone is also totally unprepared. “The Pacific Northwest has no early-warning system,” Schulz wrote.
Needless to say, people started really freaking out.
Like, they are really scared.
It's hard to overhype how scary it is.
Some people tried to lighten the mood with a Grey's Anatomy joke.
But mostly everyone was just scared out of their minds.
Maybe ignorance is bliss?
The hype got so big, people wondered if the story could impact the real estate market.
But there was some optimism. Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times wondered if the story could stir some improvements in earthquake preparedness in the Pacific Northwest.
As for Schulz, she tried to lighten the mood a bit.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the U.S. Geological Survey to learn more about the potentially impending natural disaster.