Loss of Wine a Reality Shake-up

The owner of Starmont Winery in Napa Valley surveys one of three barrel rooms rocked by an earthquake, which — while bad — was just a reminder that another Big One is looming around the bend.A magnitude 6.0 temblor in the wine nirvana of Napa Valley may shake West Coast residents into realizing they need to prepare for earthquakes, including the inevitable Big One.

Many Napa wineries saw bottles and barrels of wine strewn in warehouses and cellars. Some placed damage estimates at as much as $1 billion, as insurance brokers reported many Napa and Sonoma wineries opted against supplemental earthquake coverage because of its relatively high cost.

Oregon wineries and other small businesses may be in the same boat. You know the threat is real, yet the price for insurance is prohibitive. The price of basic preparation, however, is within reach if people can be shaken into a realization it is smart and necessary.

Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney is again pushing for a major bonding campaign to retrofit Oregon schools.

Geologists and volcanologists in Oregon cite evidence that this area has experienced a major quake every 500 years or so. The last "Big One" was 314 years ago.

Natural disasters on this scale produce gallows humor. But officials stress that preparedness is not really a laughing matter. They note a major earthquake could level buildings, knock out bridges and disrupt basic utilities such as electricity, natural gas and water. Your house may still be standing, but the lifelines you normally depend on may be destroyed.

There are three faults running under Portland. Another major fault is just off the Oregon Coast. There are more in the Willamette Valley. The 1700 Cascadia earthquake occurred along the subduction zone running from northern California to British Columbia. Evidence shows it produced a giant tsunami that belted Japan. The Big One before that was in 1310, a span of only 390 years.

Recent research suggests the Cascadia subduction zone is more complex and volatile than previously thought. That has led to predictions that magnitude 8.0 or above earthquake could occur within the next 50 years, laying waste to large numbers of unreinforced buildings, bridges and pipelines and causing a tidal surge of up to 100 feet.

Pictures of rubble caused by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake may not be as persuasive as barrel rooms with a tumble of decimated wine barrels. Seeing all that wine go to waste grabs your attention.

In addition to stocking up on wine, officials advise a home kit with bottled water, medical supplies, blankets, warm clothing and canned food.