Pacific Northwest residents have always known they live under the threat of an eventual earthquake, but recent research bumped up the likelihood that a megaquake will hit in the next 50 years. Those living in Northern Oregon, including Portland, have a 20 percent chance of being hit by a quake measuring 8.0 or higher – the first in over 300 years.

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On January 26, 1700, the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate slipped, causing a devastating 9.0 earthquake, killing countless of Pacific Northwestern people overnight, and setting into motion a tsunami that hit Japan 10 hours later. An article in The New Yorker last year raised awareness of the Cascadia subduction zone and its immense power, leaving millions of residents in fear of the next catastrophic jolt.

Related: NASA experts say California’s next big earthquake could happen in less than three years

As the plate continually slides underneath the North American plate, small seismic hiccups can be detected every year or so. The Atlantic reports on a study led by Chris Goldfinger, a geologist at Oregon State University, and his findings that Washington State’s previous prediction of a massive quake every 500 years has been updated to every 430 years. And northern Oregon’s risk has increased from every 430 years to every 350 years, meaning there is a 20 percent chance of “the big one” hitting the area in the next 50 years.

San Francisco has a 50 percent chance of a 7.0 or higher quake in the next 30 years, and Los Angeles is 93 percent likely, yet Goldfinger notes how the Cascadian rupture would be far more powerful and disastrous. Thanks to the newfound awareness, he says, “Now it’s turned into a regional semi-panic, and that’s not entirely a bad thing.” Panic means attention, which means preparedness and solution-driven focus. Get ready, PNW, the big one is coming.

Via The Atlantic

Images via Wikipedia, Wikimedia 1, 2