LOS ANGELES (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey says the earthquake early warning system known as ShakeAlert will be capable of delivering alerts directly to wireless devices in Oregon on March 11 and to Washington state in May.
The USGS announced the target for completing the West Coast rollout on Tuesday. The ShakeAlert system warns of significant quakes and has been enabled in California since October 2019.
"As massive slabs of Earth squish into and grind past each other off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, many people may wonder when they will feel ensuing earthquakes," the agency said in a statement. "Although the U.S. Geological Survey cannot predict where and when future earthquakes will occur, the bureau, along with a team of organizations, helped create a system that can provide vital seconds of warning that an earthquake is happening and shaking is imminent."
The system uses a network of sensors that detect the start of an earthquake and calculates magnitude, location and the expected amount of shaking. It sends the information in real time to distributors that send out alerts to cellphones and the internet.
The alerts are delivered by FEMA's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. Oregon will be the second state to ”go live” after California started using the system in 2019.
Oregon's start date coincides with the 10th anniversary of the magnitude-9.1 Great Tohoku earthquake in Japan, which took about 20,000 peoples’ lives. This quake was the strongest in Japan’s history and struck below the North Pacific Ocean, 81 miles east of Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region.
The quake caused a tsunami that produced waves up to 132 feet high and caused the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.