Being a Bellevue personal injury attorney I am constantly trying to prepare people for serious auto accidents so they may attempt to prevent them—but still auto accidents are not predictable and no matter how hard you prepare you cannot stop the inevitable. Similarly, earthquakes are not predictable and are never truly safe, but you are in considerably more danger if you are stuck on or under an overpass or unsafe structure when the earthquake strikes. We were recently reminded of the severe crisis an earthquake can create when the massive earthquake in Japan trashed the country and created a 30 foot tsunami that killed thousands of people. While we are in Washington and do not see nearly as many earthquakes as Japan- we are expected to have a massive earthquake that will destroy our city and cause a similar Tsunami—the question is are we ready?
After witnessing the massive destruction of the 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan 1 week ago the Alaskan Way Viaduct is being retrofitted with a new earthquake detection system. This weekend the viaduct is scheduled to go through its semi-annual inspection, but in addition to checking for cracks and other structure flaws or hazards the construction crew will be installing earthquakes sensors and traffic gates so that when a sizable earthquake is detected drivers will not be on the insecure viaduct.
Earthquake sensors will be added to the viaduct in 9 different locations along with traffic gates and bells typically seen at railroad crossings. When the sensors detect an earthquake they trigger the lowering of the traffic gates and sets off the warning bells and lights.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct has long been considered an earthquake hazard and the Japan quake was the push we needed to do something, no matter how small, to reduce the risk this old structure posses. This system is made to clear the viaduct of traffic quickly in an earthquake- within two minutes all traffic would be off the dangerous structure, unlike when the Nisqually Earthquake struck ten years ago and it took two hours to get everyone off the viaduct.
The Viaduct will be closed in both directions Saturday 3/19 and Sunday 3/20, starting at 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.