Cooper: What’s next? A tsunami?

Just what’s going on? Haven’t we been humbled enough? Or is it, haven’t we been punished enough?

Just what’s going on? Haven’t we been humbled enough? Or is it, haven’t we been punished enough?

Having my main computer self-destruct at the exact time client reports, billing and a column are due seems like more than enough to both humble and punish me.

Then there is our Presidential election, although I am having some difficulty feeling any ownership for the process.

Two candidates focusing on the relative merits of their wives’ looks or accomplishments the day after a terrorist attack in Belgium causes me to cover my eyes so I don’t go blind.

I doubt my brainless computer is high on the least of the forces that forecast really bad things to come, but we did have a dove fly into our window with such force that feathers rose up from the dove’s body and floated like snow until it rested on the ground.

Actually, doves fly into our windows on a regular basis but this one was particularly dramatic. He or she, although it must have been a he, rested on the ground for at least an hour before he flew off.

Still it seemed symbolic given the warnings and preparations for the “Big One.” Birds and animals know it’s coming before we humans do.

We humans don’t pay attention; many claim we are simply unconscious, meaning we have lost touch with our sense of our surroundings because we are lost in thought about failed computers or presidential elections. When I hear unconscious I find myself having to adjust my response from “call 9-1-1” to a more knowing nod.

‘The Big One’

The possibility of the “Big One” pierced our consciousness when several more enlightened neighbors began organizing the neighborhood to be ready to live on an instant island surrounded by water for at least 30 days.

And by the way, don’t expect any help; no one will be able to reach you even if they were so inclined, which they probably won’t be since they will be as busy as you are.

Becoming an island is one of the possible and likely outcomes of a 9.0 or greater earthquake occurring when the Juan de Fuca plate not so gently slips beneath the North American plate.

These competing plates stretch about 800 miles from northern California to southern British Columbia.

We are told that the “Big Ones’ occur every 300-500 years and the last one was in January, 1700, over 300 years ago. We learn too that the Juan de Fuca plate is the only plate along the “Ring of Fire” not to experience a major earthquake in the past 50 years.

The “Big One” could occur in the very next minute or 150 years from now. That’s a long time in which to rotate food from the emergency stash.

We live in a tsunami zone. Apparently, our home is on the outer reach of a tsunami. We have a very steep driveway which we use for leg strengthening and fear driving in snow and ice. As it turns out, this monster driveway will make it harder for water to overcome our home.

We may be lucky enough not to be swept away or have our home collapse during the earthquake. “Stick” houses are seen as unlikely to collapse, which makes me think such houses got a bad rap since the big bad wolf cannot blow them down. Apparently, stick houses fare better than brick houses in earthquakes.


Imaging the unimaginable

We’ve been to three meetings about preparing for the “Big One,” enough to spur my imagination about living on an instant island without electricity, water, plumbing, Internet, refrigeration, access to health care and windows blown out during the earthquake.

I imagine being cold, worried and scared. Despite that, I want to be in our home with beloved husband and neither of us out and about so that we are separated by a moat of water with only a few hours to connect over cellphones.

Assuming we are both home and escaped injury, we will look for cats who no doubt dove under a bed and hope the bed didn’t collapse on them. We will walk carefully through broken glass possibly in the dark.

If possible, we will corral cats into carriers and head up to a designated high spot in the neighborhood to wait for the tsunami, its reach determined by the strength of the earthquake.

The spot has been predetermined by each so defined neighborhood zone. The neighbors see who is present and who is not; the latter being the first ones the assigned triage team will check on to see what help is needed.

Once the water has come and settled, the propane team will go to houses with propane tanks and disable them. The risk of fire is otherwise great and there no 9-1-1 or fire trucks to the rescue.

From then on it is surviving on stored food and water and trying our best to practice hygiene in toileting and, yes, respectfully handling dead bodies.

At our age, recovery, should we recover, will be much of the rest of our lives. Our town, our community whether touched by the water or not, will never be the same.

What will be hopeful and nurturing is our new community built on the organization and selflessness of neighbors who got together, talked, planned and prepared.

The leaders of our neighborhood zones, who are smart dedicated people, are impressive in their dedication and trust that in the event of this catastrophic event, human resilience and understanding of the imperative to work together will prevail.

Politics, cell towers and disabled computers have not mattered in these neighborhood gatherings and will not matter for a long time on the island.

We might feel punished. Most certainly we will be humbled. Soon we will begin to build again like all people who experience devastating disasters. It is what we do together.


Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at