The Really Big One

by WCE

The Problem:
The Cascadia subduction zone will likely experience a magnitude 8-9 earthquake off the Oregon/Washington Coast. Based on historic periods between major quakes and knowing that the last major quake was in 1700, the chance of a major quake by 2060 is estimated at 1 in 3. Coastal regions will be inundated by the resulting tsunami. Utility infrastructure, roads and bridges are expected to be severely affected.

WCE’s Commentary:
This article is kind of long, so I’ll summarize it and paste a quote for the less interested. I will also note that if your child wants to become a paleoseismologist, (s)he should consider Oregon State. I was motivated to read it in part by paying the bill for our Earthquake insurance, which is 50% of our regular homeowner’s insurance premium and has a high deductible. Another article noted that 80% of Oregonians don’t carry earthquake insurance. One author helpfully noted that the federal government will pick up the tab in the event of a disaster. A bridge/seismology expert for the State of Oregon (met her once) is concerned by the lack of interest/concern regarding the likely destruction of much of our infrastructure. A tsunami would affect the Oregon/Washington/BC Coast- I’ve included a map of the likely Oregon effect from a related article.. So this post could go in all kinds of directions. :)

From the article:

… In Oregon, it has been illegal since 1995 to build hospitals, schools, firehouses, and police stations in the inundation zone, but those which are already in it can stay, and any other new construction is permissible: energy facilities, hotels, retirement homes. In those cases, builders are required only to consult with DOGAMI about evacuation plans. “So you come in and sit down,” Ian Madin says. “And I say, ‘That’s a stupid idea.’ And you say, ‘Thanks. Now we’ve consulted.’”

These lax safety policies guarantee that many people inside the inundation zone will not get out. Twenty-two per cent of Oregon’s coastal population is sixty-five or older. Twenty-nine per cent of the state’s population is disabled, and that figure rises in many coastal counties. “We can’t save them,” Kevin Cupples says. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll go around and check on the elderly.’ No. We won’t.” Nor will anyone save the tourists. Washington State Park properties within the inundation zone see an average of seventeen thousand and twenty-nine guests a day. Madin estimates that up to a hundred and fifty thousand people visit Oregon’s beaches on summer weekends. “Most of them won’t have a clue as to how to evacuate,” he says. “And the beaches are the hardest place to evacuate from.”

Those who cannot get out of the inundation zone under their own power will quickly be overtaken by a greater one. A grown man is knocked over by ankle-deep water moving at 6.7 miles an hour. The tsunami will be moving more than twice that fast when it arrives. Its height will vary with the contours of the coast, from twenty feet to more than a hundred feet. It will not look like a Hokusai-style wave, rising up from the surface of the sea and breaking from above. It will look like the whole ocean, elevated, overtaking land. Nor will it be made only of water—not once it reaches the shore. It will be a five-story deluge of pickup trucks and doorframes and cinder blocks and fishing boats and utility poles and everything else that once constituted the coastal towns of the Pacific Northwest.”

The Really Big One



119 thoughts on “The Really Big One

  1. My husband sent this article to me when it came out and I read most of it. I think it’s just one of those things – nothing will change until something really bad happens and then everyone will throw up their hands and ask how government could be so stupid. I’m remembering Katrina and everyone asking after the fact why they didn’t build the levees in New Orleans to withstand a storm like that.

  2. I’m reading this article intently… but every time someone mentions or references a quake, I sing this song all day long…

  3. By the way, I did read up a bit on this beyond that article. The reality is that Seattle won’t get much of a tsunami because it is protected from the open ocean by the Olympic Penisula. However, there are what are termed “inundation zones”, and those do correspond to some of the most touristy areas. So I didn’t feel bad that the hotels in the tourist areas cost way too much, and happily booked a cheaper hotel out in Redmond (where it turned out there was a lovely bike path right next to the hotel, and a bike rental a block away, so we spent a afternoon biking). In Vancouver, we also could only afford to stay pretty far out, and thus discovered a wonderful Korean neighborhood with so much good Korean food that we dined happily the whole time we were there. By coincindence, this was also well out of the inundation zone :-)

  4. This is all recent knowledge, btw. When we lived there, in the 70’s, we were always told that volcanos were a risk but not earthquakes, which were seen as a Califonia thing.

  5. What, really can be done? People have to live somewhere. The east coast has constant hurricanes, the midwest has tornadoes every.single.year. The northeast has blizzards every winter. Earthquakes really don’t happen all that often. Aside from keeping fuel in the cars, water, food and cash available, what else is there?

  6. Mooshi, not recent knowledge really. I remember learning about the ring of fire and the Crescent City tsunami in grade school. And I’m on the wrong side of 50.

  7. I don’t think magnitude 9 earthquakes are really comparable to blizzards or even hurricanes (which can be predicted). However, they certainly don’t happen as often. So I guess you have to trade frequent-but-not-so-severe with rare-but-really-severe

  8. I’ll have to send my husband the follow up article. He was weirdly freaked out by the whole idea even though we’ve never even been to the PNW.

  9. Yes, I have heard about the NYC risks and worry a little whenever I am in a train tunnel. But the earthquake events they are talking about are maginitute 5 or 6, not 9 – quite a difference. Also, I remember being terrified back when I lived in Boston to learn that there is a risk there too, and since the Back Bay is basically built on unstable landfill, it would probably sink.

  10. The reality is that we humans, on the whole, suck at dealing with Black Swan events. It’s the same fundamental issue as delayed gratification: planning for these kinds of horribles means taking money from current needs to prepare for something in the future that will definitely happen, but not necessarily within the lifespan of those making the decisions.

    All you have to do is look at Moore, Oklahoma. It absolutely floors me that anyone living in Tornado Alley wouldn’t have some version of storm shelter to start with — but to not have fixed the problem, or even changed the codes, AFTER YOU’VE BEEN FLATTENED ONCE?? To me, that’s criminal negligence on the part of the officials in charge. But then again, it’s the population that elects those officials, and apparently the voters had higher priorities. Because “what are the odds,” right?

    Or remember the Minneapolis bridge collapse? And all of the articles about how our deteriorating infrastructure means there are all these other bridges at risk? I drive across one of those other bridges that got a poor grade almost every day. And yet not one single thing has been done to fix or upgrade it in all the years since. Meanwhile, a mere 3-4 miles north, the state has had enough highway money to F with my commute for the past two years running with I-95 “improvements,” and now the new Gov. is canceling transit and using the “found” money to lower tolls in the area. Because it can’t happen to us, right?

  11. whenever I am in a train tunnel.

    My understanding is tunnels aren’t that dangerous as they move with the Earth as it shakes. The towers in the city are safe as the same techniques you use to protect against hurricane force wind loads also protect against quakes. The danger would be the un-reinforced masonry buildings.

  12. The problem in Seattle, and especially Portland, is that they did not understand the risk until the 2000’s. The Seattle Fault was only definitively identified in 1995 (at least according to Wikipedia), and they didn’t really start thinking about subduction events until the recent earthquake in Japan which was the same type. Evidently Portland has bazillions of buildings that are completely unsafe. They did not start requiring builders to follow earthquake safety standards until 1995.

    I know that we all learned about the Ring of Fire in school, and I think there was a earthquake in Seattle in the 60’s maybe? But when we lived there in the 70’s, Ring of Fire to us meant the threat from Mt Rainier.

  13. I personally love blizzards, so I am glad that we live in a blizzardy area. Would much rather those than tornadoes or earthquakes or hurricanes. (When we do get hurricanes they seem to have petered out by the time they are that far north.)

    Also why I do not own any waterfront property!

  14. “I personally love blizzards, so I am glad that we live in a blizzardy area.”

    I love blizzards, and regret that I don’t live in a blizzardy area.

    The description about the tsunami not being a wall of water, but a wall of moving debris, reminded me of what I read in McCullough’s history of the Johnstown flood. It wasn’t water rushing down the mountain–it was dirt and rocks and gravel and uprooted trees. Incredible.

  15. Yeah, I know that unreinforced masonry is the big issue (although not as bad as the kind of concrete slab construction typical in Greece, Turkey, China, and other very earthquake prone countries – the high mortality in the Sichuan quake was largely due to those buildings pancaking). But I read this scare piece on the effects of an NYC earthquake once that painted scary pictures of water rushing into the PATH tunnels, and I can’t get it out of my head.

  16. I detest blizzards, and snow in general. Otherwise I would have moved to Quebec eons ago.

  17. Mooshi, when I was in school, the Ring of Fire referred to the dormant and not so dormant volcanoes in the Cascades and the earthquake potential from the tectonic plates rubbing together on the pacific coast.

    At some point there will be a really big earthquake. There will be lots of smaller ones until then. I don’t know if anyplace has any functional evacuation route, the infrastructure has been neglected for decades, if it ever was fully functional in the first place.

    As i recall, Japan choose to build really strong buildings, California choose flexible ones. Both have tradeoffs in terms of cost, resistance to certain types of earthquakes, etc. Both countries suffered minimal loss of life in the 90s earthquakes, compared to LDCs.

    Probably the best protection against loss of life in a natural disaster is a rich society that can get help to the affected areas.

  18. BTW, you guys were talking yesterday about personalizing tragic events. Here is one that affected me on a more personal level than most: the SIchuan earthquake. My DD is from Sichuan, and the earthquake happened just a year after we had been there. All those photos of flattened schools and the photos of parents holding pictures of their dead children. My DD’s orphanage was of that same construction, but fortunately well away from the earthquake zones.

  19. Thanks Rhett – I was going to point out the Northeast’s problems… And to add… the < 3 magnitude earth quake that hit the Northeast (epicenter in DC) a few years ago did enough damage to close the Washington Monument for 2+ years. There are few places in the NYC metro area which are built to earthquake specs… the skyscrapers, yes, but the lower buildings? Not so much. I'm also fairly certain the Battery (probably everything south of Wall St) would sink because it's a giant landfill (ala Back Bay).

    Flooding is my major concern. While I live ~40 feet above sea level and on sand, relative sea level in RI is rising. This means that I will have to think about flooding more carefully. I'm interested in getting flood insurance, but am afraid of the deductibles, even though I'm in a low risk area (even in the re-drawn flood maps post Sandy).

  20. I’m fine with the hurricane risk here. Earthquakes would freak me out. The worst thing that can happen where we live is that we’re without electricity for 2-3 weeks if a big hurricane hits. Been there, done that. Annoying, but not life threatening. We are too far inland to have a real flood risk.

  21. Speaking of volcanos, while we were in that area, we went hiking on Mt Rainier, a hike that I knew well from childhood which takes you way up high near the glaciers. It was basically a 4 mile vertical rock scramble. Anyway, the vistas are amazing, and as I said, I knew the hike well. You can see Mt Adams and Mt St Helens very well. But when we did the hike this time, I couldn’t find Mt St Helens. It took me something like 30 minutes to realize that the ugly lump on the horizon was Mt St Helens. I knew it would look reallly different (it used to be this elegant mountain that looked like Mt Fuji), but sitll wasn’t prepared.

    I also was shocked, shocked, shocked, by the lack of snow. When we used to hike this trail, it was snow covered for much of the way even in early August. This time, there was NO SNOW anywhere. And we couldn’t even really see the glaciers well. I know there is a terrible drought going on, but it seems like the glaciers are smaller too, which would be a longer term event. In some ways, that was as scary as the earthquake threat

  22. I find it interesting that some of you were learning plate tectonics as the same time it was becoming widely accepted by the scientific community (60s/70s). The hypothesis had been there for decades before, but took a long time to gain traction. Juxtapose that with now, when plate tectonics are parodied in a cartoon, talked about in the New Yorker, and generally accepted as fact. Just interesting to me…

    On of my good friends is a geologist and loves this article. She’s living in ID now, so she’s more likely to be impacted by a super volcano under Yellowstone. In her words… “bring it on!”

  23. I think that Katrina and Sandy were big wakeup calls. Sandy was really a much smaller event than a Cascadia subduction quake would be, but it still scared a lot of people. The week after was a mess – you couldn’t find gas, transit was completely disrupted and without electricity, people couldn’t even charge their cellphones (and regular phones were out). I had students coping with life in flooded buildings for about a month after – one girl burst into tears in my class when we had a big snowstorm and she told me her building had flooded and there was no heat or electricity 4 weeks after the hurricane, and she was really cold.

    If Sandy, which was predicted and honestly not as bad as a big earthquake, caused so much disruption, think how bad a big earthquake would be.

  24. What can be done? Given how many rivers we have, I would prioritize seismic upgrades to the many bridges along the Pacific Coast so people can leave and/or emergency responders can get in. I’d also consider bonds to replace schools/hospitals in the inundation zone and not allow any more to be built there.

    In terms of seismic damage to our house, the main problems will be the foundation (not sure what that could look like, and ours isn’t seismically upgraded) and our ~700 square foot deck. You get to $100k pretty fast with foundation problems so that’s a risk I prefer to insure against. It could be a lot worse than that, but we are about 50 mi inland in the “orange” area, not the “red” area of the map.

    I showed my sons the tsunami evacuation signs at the beach and explained that if they are ever present during an earthquake, they should follow the signs to high ground because a big wave may come within a few minutes. We may also decide to keep two water filters around the house rather than one.

    We are not Japan and I don’t think the level of protection Japan has is feasible, given its cost and our small population.

  25. Re: the specific earthquake/tsunami risk in Oregon/Washington, the part that I worry about most (not, umm, living anywhere in the vicinity) is the macroeconomic effects. It seems like a lot of our economy is highly tech-driven right now — and many of those companies are HQ’d on the west coast, in the very areas that are high risk for significant damage. I would hope that many of these companies have plans in place, e.g., backups/redundant capacity elsewhere, etc. But all of that is short-term — what do you do when you don’t have power or water for months, or when your employees don’t have homes and don’t have functioning roads to get to work?

    We had one client with a big plant down in E.Tx/W.La. — they managed to escape Katrina fine, then got hammered by Rita (does anyone even remember Rita, in the shadow of Katrina?). They were still down almost five years later, still trying to get the last repairs done and get authorizations to start up. Imagine that happening in the home of Microsoft, Amazon, etc.

  26. MM – yes glaciers are melting – it isn’t a drought problem. This is Mount Stanley on the Uganda/Congo border… top image in 1906. bottom image 2013.

    (more photos and descriptions here:

    I’m with you – more scared of glacial ice melting than an earth quake… Each time I read “glacial ice the size of Rhode Island” I know the next line is “melted/dislodged/fell off” a large ice block (like Antarctica or Greenland).

    I was watching Top Gear last night and the episode highlighted Jeremy and James taking a Toyota Hillux to the North Pole. I wondered when Top Gear would be going there by boat (Toy-boat-a, also highlighted in the episode).

  27. The root cause of some washing machine repair problems is that the factory that made the chips that are failing was wiped out in the earthquake/tsunami and no one else seemed (seems?) to be interested in making a small volume of those chips to repair washing machines. This is a good argument for using more expensive, more flexible chips like FPGA’s in your designs, Totebaggers.

  28. LfB – I remember Katrina, Rita, and Wilma vividly. Wilma was the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. She destroyed Mexico, and by the next spring (2006) they were still cleaning up. After Wilma, we changed our honeymoon plans to go on a cruise and were so thankful we did. We were promised by the all-inclusive that they would be fixed by our reservation (first week of May 2006). They weren’t. We took a shore excursion to the same region and it was still a mess. I think that was also the year we had 28 named storms… the NWS had to use the Greek alphabet.

  29. LFB: Rita left us without power for 14 days. No gas either. It pretty much destroyed parts of Galveston. I remember it well.

  30. “super volcano under Yellowstone”

    I recently read a YA dystopian book about this one going, Ashfall by Mike Mullin

  31. Rhode, that’s an interesting point about learning plate tectonics. I did learn it in elementary school, which would have been late 60s/early 70s, and I remember there was some excitement about it. As I mentioned the other day, my dad started out as a geology major in the late ’30s, and he was very interested too. He got one of the first Reunite Gondwanaland tee-shirts.

  32. A field programmable gate array (FPGA) is a successor to programmable read-only memory (PROM) that can be programmed to do a particular task. The chips that are frying in the washing machines are ASIC’s (application specific integrated circuits).

    FPGA’s can be reprogrammed like computers and many of them are very powerful. ASIC’s cannot be reprogrammed. ASIC’s are much cheaper than FPGA’s but the design and manufacturing setup is expensive so you need to want a few hundred thousand of them.

    In reality, the washing machine designers probably should have used a common, widely available ASIC rather than a specialized ASIC for that model.

  33. You’re making me think my next washing machine should be a bucket and washboard.

  34. Can I just say how tired I’m getting of the “another week, another tropical cyclone approaching” weather we’ve been having the last couple of months.

  35. I have friends who recently retired to Crescent City. I mentioned that 1964 tsunami that wiped out the whole city and they said, Oh, the city moved inland a ways after that. But it still seems too close for comfort to me. On the other hand, until that day arrives, they have a gorgeous house near the ocean for $200K.

  36. RMS, I think some of the washers over $1000 are built to last in the European style. The problems, in my opinion, occur because of the trade-offs necessary to build a washer at a price point comparable to the old style. You also probably care less about how long the washing machine cycle is, given that you won’t be doing daily loads for twins who peed their beds for way too long.

  37. As tourists in WCE’s area we were reminded of the tsunami danger constantly along the coast due to the tsunami evacuation signs. At various points as the coastal roads led to higher ground we would wonder if we were high enough to escape a wall of water. Where we are live now is low risk for earthquakes and usually we’ll get some rain from a storm/hurricane hitting the coast but we seem to be too far inland for most coastal storms (we had to explain this to our family overseas that we are fine, even if they hear that coastal NC is impacted).

  38. WCE – While we were on vacation, I thought about your mild obsession with antique washing machines when I did a couple loads of laundry in the condo’s cheap, stacked agitator washer. I really didn’t like it. It had everything twisted and pulled so tightly. I feel like it wears out the clothes much, much faster. And, as Finn has pointed out, it doesn’t spin and extract water nearly as well, so drying is much longer.

    Our front loader LGs must be approaching a decade old now, and we haven’t had a single issue. Two nights ago, I came down with some sort of fever/sweats, and I soaked through three T-shirts (you could have wrung them out), and I finally ended up sleeping on a bath towel. Yesterday I could just throw the whole mess in, shirts and underwear and towel and king sheet set, and it washes adequately and gently.

  39. I don’t mind so much the hurricanes and blizzards we get in my area because the meteorologists have become so good at predicting their path and severity. We usually have plenty of time to prepare, evacuate, etc. What scares me is the tornado that just pops up during a thunderstorm or the earthquake out of nowhere. Just in a few years ago, we had both in the same year for the first time I can remember in my 42 years living in VA. Worst night of my life was trying to sleep in the basement while watching the local weatherman zooming in on the conditions for tornadoes in the subsections of my county, then learning the next morning about a town nearby that had been destroyed. And then there was that freak derecho, which I had never even heard of before it happened!

  40. I’ve never heard that term derecho before (other than the spanish word).

    DH is fascinated by weather stuff, he might have used the word before and it just went over my head

  41. Yesterday in my local paper there was an article recounting the devastating effects of Hurricane Camille that came through the area this time of year forty-six years ago. I live far from the coast, but that hurricane was one of the worst (if not the worst) natural disasters to hit this area. Over thirty inches of rain twenty inches of rain fell over night, leaving over a hundred dead. So, living far from the coast does not protect one from the damaging effects of hurricanes.
    Virginia has a two inactive volcanoes. I drove by one of them last week. It was quite peaceful watching sheep grazing at the base of it.

  42. Milo, I agree that RMS should get a good modern washer, perhaps an LG, due to her washing needs and climate. I was on the borderline- if I had not had 3 loads of dirty clothes from the 3 different modern washing machines I had used at other people’s houses, I would not have been so hesitant to buy one. Like low flush toilets, the design flaws are being worked out with time.

  43. Yeah, DH and I haven’t quite reached the incontinent stage yet, so I do a load every few days. I’m sure I’d be more wound up about washers if I had four small children.

  44. Milo, Your LG washer seems to be the exception, not the rule. My LG washer (the one recommended by Consumer Reports) had to be fixed 2 weeks after purchase (for free). The dryer’s control panel died after a few years and had to be replaced ($350). The problem was that the malfunction was so typical that it seems that replacement panels were backlogged 3 weeks and we had to use the Laundromat for a while. Both appliances are now working, and I hope they continue to do so. The cycles are indeed gentler.

  45. HM, thanks for posting that video. Sorry Milo, but it was relevant to me because my uncle was there.

  46. I just finished “Ready Player One” a dystopian young adult novel set almost entirely inside a series of video games. Ernest Cline is the author. I thought it was great. I also read the Kill a Mockingbird sequel. It was a dog, unquestionably.

  47. Wow, WCE, I can’t believe how much your earthquake coverage must cost! I bought our annual rider for $35.

    Our insurance guy says I’m the first person to opt for it in 30 years. But then we have had only very small quakes.

    I also buy flood insurance even though we live in a low-risk zone and our addition involved enough excavation for me to know that we are 5-6′ above the water table – our house is still below a hill and, more importantly, the water and sewer mains that serve the university up that hill.

    But if you are going to buy anything, Rhode, I would opt for the umbrella policy before the flood policy – I’ve decided play dates are a high risk activity and the Rhode-ster will have them before you know it :)

  48. We lost power for a week from Sandy, and based on that I now keep about a week’s worth of canned food on hand, along with some clean buckets and easily accessible extra blankets and towels.

    We bought a generator, but since neither of us has ever started anything like it I will probably have to get the neighbors’ help if we ever need to use it.

  49. A parent (and Denver Dad) – I’m going to try valiantly to read Ready Player One again (starting this weekend). I really want to finish it and hope that with 2 weekends of vacations (2 long weekends in a row) I can plow through most of it.

    Sheep Farmer – RI still refers to the Hurricane of ’38 and Hurricane Carol as the metrics of bad. In the winter, it’s the Blizzard of ’78. All three storms packed a wallop in terms of damage (not sure about deaths though). And, more recently, people are using the Flood of 2010 to describe flood damage. The flood mark in the Warwick Mall should be set at about 8 feet high… the majority of the mall was underwater in the middle of a river.

  50. I would opt for the umbrella policy before the flood policy

    I was under the impression that umbrella policies are for those with substantial assets outside of their home and retirement accounts. It seems that RI has a 500k bankruptcy homestead exemption and retirement accounts are protected in bankruptcy so Rhode is essentially judgement proof and, in such cases, they would settle for whatever her liability insurance would pay.

    But, I could be wrong.

  51. Mooshi – 2015 has been unusually dry here. The ski place in Snoqualmie stayed closed for the entire season. Snowpack was at zero by June. This is helping contribute to Washington State’s current natural disaster – wildfires. We’re experiencing the largest wildfire in State history. More than 1,150 square miles are on fire (which the paper says is about equivalent to the size of Rhode Island).

  52. Good point on the clean buckets, someone. I think I may get some of those and store them in our crawl space.

    Earthquake coverage, which is really “earth movement” coverage and includes mudslides and stuff as well, costs about $400 of our total house insurance bill of $1100. Our insurance company no longer offers it to new policies, I heard from a friend with insurance from the same company, without seismic upgrades. Mr WCE and I should probably consider the seismic upgrades, especially if they would reduce our insurance costs. We know people who’ve lost houses to mudslides, so $400 seems sort of like fire insurance to me. We live a few hundred yards from a ~300′ drop off. A standard mudslide wouldn’t affect our house, but an earthquake might.

    An advantage of paying for coverage, vs. self-insuring, is that our insurance company would also import qualified contractors and materials to complete claims in a crisis, I suspect. This is really only important when lots of people are competing for materials/qualified people.

  53. Rhett, I was thinking of garnishment, but you’re right, RI law is much more generous than my home state :)

  54. Rhett, I was thinking of garnishment,

    I read somewhere that garnishment essentially never happens. In cases where the defendant is judgement proof, the plaintiffs always just settle for the insurance payout. But, I’m not sure why – I think it might be the bankruptcy option.

  55. “equivalent to the size of Rhode Island”

    That’s it. I’m petitioning for “size of Rhode Island” to become a standard unit of measurement, like foot or meter. :)

  56. And thanks Sky – more questions for my insurance guy. We haven’t reassessed our insurance coverage and needs in about 2-3 years.

  57. Rhode,

    A cubic Rhode Island would be 42,144 cubic miles. 4.6×10^16 gallons or 142,413,004,800 acre feet or metrically 1.7 x 10 ^14 cubic meters.

  58. Rhett,
    I judgment in excess of the limits of insurance could be satisfied by the assets of the defendant. I have only heard of this happening once every in 10 years of practice in the area. A girl was catastrophically injured through the negligence of an amusement park. The park’s insurance carrier wrote her a check for the policy limits, and the amusement park owner gave her guardian the keys to the park.

    Garnishment means seizing assets, usually wages, after a judgment. This is commonly done to get dead beat parents to pay custodial parents in a divorce situation. The money would go right from the debtor’s bank to the creditor.

  59. A parent,

    Have you heard of cases where someone has $300k in liability insurance and they get hit with a $600k judgment and have their wages garnished? Or, do they essentially always settle for the $300k.

  60. After visiting Greenland and learning more about the melting of the ice sheet, it is certainly possible that in our grandchildren’s lifetimes the water level will rise enough to cover significant coastal areas around the world, especially in the North Atlantic, including some pretty pricey urban real estate. A regionally cold summer like 2015 does nothing to reduce the ever growing rivers of fresh water coming out from underneath the glacier.

    I have lived through some weather events over the last 40 years in or very near Boston (Rhode Island and coastal property all throughout New England are much more vulnerable), but in general our bad weather is of the nuisance variety. From comments above, people in hurricane areas seem to treat even the ten year events, which seem very grave to us up here, as nuisance, much as we treat that level of blizzard.

  61. I guarantee you, if we get any kind of blizzard in a populated area here (i.e. not a mountain summit) you are going to see roads and everything else shut down, stores empty, people acting like it’s the end of times.

  62. I think the point of umbrella insurance isn’t so much to cover the “overage” above the standard policies, it’s to cover the “in-betweens.” E.g., your car insurance covers you in a car crash, your home insurance might (might) cover you if someone slips on your front steps, but nothing is going to cover you if you get sued for slander, or crashing into someone on your bike, or for breaching a contract, or whatever.

    That said, we do also do the “overage” stuff, too. I honestly don’t know what assets might be protected, depending on what jurisdiction I live in or get sued in — and I don’t want to *have* to know, or worry about declaring bankruptcy to shield myself from a judgment. Bankruptcy is hard to get through, and the allowed budgets are tight. It just seems a really small price to pay to not have to worry about all of that.

  63. From my experience in an insurance settlement, if a plaintiff offers to settle for less than the amount the defendant is insured for and the insurance company refuses the settlement, the insurance company is liable for all damages if they lose in court.

    We had an incident where that fact made it possible to sleep at night. And we immediately upped our umbrella coverage after.

    So, the idea is to have enough insurance so that the plaintiff settlement offer is within the liability coverage.

  64. Yes, what Murphy said — this is probably why most folks don’t have to worry about the super-huge judgment if they carry reasonable insurance.

  65. or crashing into someone on your bike

    I thought it did.

    Examples of types of liability claims homeowners insurance may cover include:… your errant golf shot accidentally striking another player in the head.”

  66. WCE,

    I posted that to Mooshi above as it was interesting from a data analysis standpoint.

    Also interesting is that fact that AM was essentially a giant scam.

  67. “Also interesting is that fact that AM was essentially a giant scam.”

    Yeah those guys are even bigger suckers than I originally thought.

  68. OT, I had a good day today. I planned a bunch of local errands (all sequenced to avoid difficult left turns across multiple lanes of traffic – my concession to advancing age.) First I went to renew my driver’s license. MA entered into an agreement with AAA so that most RMV services can be performed in their full service offices. Five minutes, including the eye test. The fee was $50, exactly the balance on one of those nuisance Verizon rebate cards that I had been carrying around for a while. Then I went to the gas station to pump my gas and noticed that the new MA regulation had gone into effect allowing self serve pumps to retain the piece that lets you fill the tank without having to squeeze the handle. (two points for common sense in a heavy govt liberal state in one morning). Then I used a coupon for something I actually wanted before it expired at Bed n Bath, met a friend and had an unaccustomed ladies’ lunch with wine at the Mall (empty and easy parking). Then worked off the drink by buying three!!! pairs of flats, and a new belt for DH who keeps losing inches. And the weather is perfect today – sunny, 70s, not humid.

  69. Trying again with zero links:

    I thought that’s what happens in HI when it falls into the 50s.

    When it falls into the 50s in Kula or Volcano Village it is a routine event. When it falls into the 50s near sea level, where Honolulu is, it would be in the wee hours of the morning but you definitely see parkas on the streets in winter when it might still be in the upper 60s into daytime hours. No shutting down of streets, though. Apparently a thunderstorm and flooding during rush hour is sufficient to unofficially shut us down, though, at least judging by my commute yesterday.

  70. Meme,

    I had to call the RMV and they said “We are experiencing high call volume and your wait time is approx 45-55 minutes. If you would like us to call you at 617… Press 1.” And 45 min later they called back.

    Contrast this to the dreaded private sector. My AA Barclay Card had a fraud alert. “A fraud alert has been noted on your account please hold for for the next available agent.” 15 min later someone picked up.”

    Here’s a thought, how about you don’t call me until an agent is available.

  71. I can’t post links at all, apparently. Here’s the Volcano Village info as cut and paste, anyhow.

    January 27, 2015 – February 26, 2015
    High Low Average
    Temperature 77.3 °F 40 °F 59.8 °F
    Dew Point 65.8 °F 9.9 °F 56.4 °F
    Humidity 99% 9% 89.6%
    Precipitation 2.77 in — —

  72. Re: the Moore, OK tornadoes and shelter – I know of a guy who went into business selling storm shelters after that. They dig into your garage floor, it’s like a big concrete cube they drop in, and you’re set. It’s nothing fancy, just big enough for your family to stand around in for the 20 minutes or so you’d need to be down there. But business is booming for this guy. Left a job as a mechanic to do it – best decision he ever made.

  73. A parent (and Denver Dad) – I’m going to try valiantly to read Ready Player One again (starting this weekend). I really want to finish it and hope that with 2 weekends of vacations (2 long weekends in a row) I can plow through most of it.

    I found it very enjoyable because I grew up with all those old videogames. I made the mistake of reading Cline’s new book, Armada, and it wasn’t very good.

  74. We have an LG front load washer and we’ve never had a problem with it, so we’re another exception.

  75. “This is helping contribute to Washington State’s current natural disaster – wildfires.”

    I heard a story on NPR a couple weeks ago where they looked at parts of Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon NPs, where they have generally adopted a “let it burn” policy, and compared those areas with areas outside the park, where fires are actively fought.

    Apparently, trees use a lot of water. The soil in the areas outside the park, with trees, was very dry, while in the park, in areas that had burned and thus did not have old tree cover, there was a water table not far below the surface.

    IOW, the wildfires this year are not necessarily a natural disaster.

    This made me wonder whether clear cutting some areas, in lieu of letting them burn (e.g., areas too close to developed areas for “let it burn” to be politically feasible), might provide some of the same benefits to water resources (some of that water in the table has got to percolate to aquifers), as well as providing fire break and wood.

  76. Our Kenmore front loader, made by Westinghouse, has been pretty trouble free, and I think it’s about 15 years old now. It does have electronic controls which have gone nuts a few times, but each time I unplugged it for a while, and eventually (usually within a couple of hours) it’ll be fine.

    Perhaps I should start proactively unplugging it every so often.

    I just recently used it to wash DS’ sleeping bag, not something I would’ve washed in our old machine with an agitator.

  77. “It does have electronic controls which have gone nuts a few times”

    I have the most absurdly temperamental ceiling fan in our bedroom. It’s a Casablanca, so it’s supposed to be one of the best, and while their hardware is decent, their electronics are junk. It’s actually run off a single power source, both for fan and chandelier, so the wall controls are both an electrical switch along with a wireless remote control for speed variation and light dimming.

    Never turn the fan off. If you do turn it off, or the cleaning lady does, when you try to turn the fan back on, it will beep half-heartedly, and then turn off the light in defiant protest. The only way to get the fan back on, I’ve discovered, is to leave the chandelier on at full brightness for about a half hour. Then you can turn the fan on normally.

    We’ll buy Hunters next time.

  78. If you do turn it off, or the cleaning lady does,

    Good help is so hard to find these days.

  79. We used to have earthquake insurance, at about $5000 a year. We found out that if there was a big one in San Francisco we would not get enough money to rebuild our home, so we ended up canceling the policy. In addition, we decided that if the quake was bad enough to destroy our home the city would be in pretty bad shape overall and the insurance companies might not have enough to pay out all of the claims. We’ll see what the future brings!

  80. We used to have earthquake insurance, at about $5000 a year

    That would pay for a lot of seismic retrofitting.

  81. Part of my job is to know how climate change will affect RI and parts of MA. My co-worker lives in a low-lying area and raises chickens on her property. A common saying around the office is “will the chickens need the kayak?” After meeting with climate experts around the region, I’m very frightened of our future. I’m pretty sure I, personally, will be safe… my kids will have waterfront property. But RI will lose a lot of ground, literally. We are projecting where marshes will end up, how bad storm surges are and will be. It’s just scary.

    I often think about the “big one” to hit the northeast. I don’t know how prepared the area is for an earthquake. The multiple blizzards (like winter 2015), the large superstorms like Sandy has proven that we are woefully unprepared. With climate change, these storms, and the frequency with which they strike will only increase.

    Maybe I’ll find a nice place in the White Mountains this weekend.. :)

  82. Milo– when we first moved into our current house, one of the first things we did was install a ceiling fan in the master bedroom. I think it’s a Hunter: we bought it from a local specialty fan shop, and paid quite a bit for it. However, it’s coming up on 20 years old, and still works as well as when we installed it, completely balanced despite quite heavy use (DW leaves it on all night most nights).

    We bought one other fan from that shop, and it’s still working fine, although with less use than the one in our master.

    We’ve bought a bunch of fans from Home Depot, with a much higher failure rate. We had to replace the ones if our family room once already, and the replacements don’t spin as fast as they used to.

  83. Rhode, you remind me both of the bridge engineer in charge of studying seismic retrofits in Oregon (yes, we should retrofit bridges but no, there’s no money) and The Giver in the Lois Lowry book.

    We seem to have decided to outsource all our worrying to a few experts…

  84. I often think about the “big one” to hit the northeast. I don’t know how prepared the area is for an earthquake.

    When you drive into Boston on 93 you’ll see these at the joints where the columns meet the road deck:

    Base isolators – to dissipate the seismic energy of “the big one.” Not that my neighborhood, built of unreiforced masonry on landfill won’t collapse like a proverbial soufflé in a cupboard. But, once the structural engineers knew what they were dealing with they did their best.

  85. We seem to have decided to outsource all our worrying to a few experts…

    If Mooshi and I rebrand our bloombergian technocratic utopia an engineerocracy…you in?

  86. I heard a story on NPR a couple weeks ago where they looked at parts of Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon NPs, where they have generally adopted a “let it burn” policy, and compared those areas with areas outside the park, where fires are actively fought.

    Not letting wildfires burn has been a huge detriment to the ecosystem. But with people building houses in these areas, “let it burn” is not a palatable option.

  87. In the Dept of Obvious – Today in the WSJ (since the site has finally decided to enforce its paywall, I can’t actually read any of the digest-type articles that make up 95% of the content) the following headline appears. Thermostat Temps Are Lowest in Homes in the North. Somebody got paid to do this survey/analysis. Forget accounting – tell your children to go into the soft sciences or even market research.

  88. Actually, Mémé, it’s an advertisement for Nest.

    In the Northeast and Northwest, nighttime winter thermostat settings hover between 64 and 65 degrees, while in the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest, settings average between 67 and 68, according to numbers provided by Nest, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company that makes programmable thermostats. Settings in the Mid-Atlantic and California fall roughly in the middle.

    The findings were based on an analysis of over 1,000 Nest thermostats, which can be connected to Wi-Fi and controlled with a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

  89. RMS – I guess technology will eliminate the need for market research and similar professions – every bit of data will be collected from our many gadgets (and eventually our implanted chips for health monitoring, especially in the utopian or dystopian technocracy) and simple data analysis programs will spit out reports that don’t rely on questionnaires, self reporting or interviews. It would be nice get past this stage where more than half of my restaurant meals, online interactions, store receipts and even face to face commercial interactions are followed up with a request for me to take 90 sec to 10 min of my time to answer a survey. And what passes for news in these filler stories is just advertising or propaganda – more reason not to pay for the subscription.

  90. Lark – we do, too! I definitely prefer it to reading online, but I think I am in the minority!

  91. I’m such a geek, I would love looking for correlations in thermostat data. There were already cheap grad students in Iowa who sought apartments above families from SE Asia, suspecting they would keep their apartments really warm in winter and that the person above those families would have a low heating bill. I’ll bet there’s all kinds of that, if we knew to look for it.

    The question is when the data tells us stuff we don’t want to know. I remember talking to my data-driven, liberal Jewish perinatologist when I was pregnant with DS1 about my FIL’s stem cell therapy plans. My doctor was excited about data-driven medicine and providing good medical care for all, and I asked what we would do about data that said people in the top quintile of socioeconomic status benefit from stem cell therapy and people in the bottom quintile of socioeconomic status don’t, due to compliance challenges.

    Data so often reminds us that we don’t live in theory.

  92. “eventually our implanted chips for health monitoring”

    Or perhaps without implanted chips, like Baymax in Big Hero 6.

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