Jackson County students and other residents will participate in the "Great Shakeout," a drill on Oct. 17 to help people prepare for a massive earthquake that could devastate the region.
At 10:17 a.m., Oregonians will "drop, cover and hold" for one minute in an earthquake drill designed to simulate a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake that could hit 9.0 on the Richter Scale. A real quake could last up to 10 minutes, experts say.
As of today, 5,685 residents in Jackson County — mostly college and high school students — signed up to take part in the drill. Throughout Oregon, 160,000 plan to participate.
In Jackson County, Rogue Community College, Hellman Elementary in Ashland, South Medford High and Applegate Elementary have agreed to participate.
The area is overdue for an earthquake, and state geologists predict southern Oregon has a 37 percent chance of having a big one within the next 50 years.
The subduction zone starts 50 to 75 miles off the coast where one tectonic plate slides under another. The zone extends under the Cascade Mountain range.
"You will definitely feel the shaking there," said Althea Rizzo, geologic hazards program coordinator for the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.
The amount of shaking will depend on the type of soil in the area. Bedrock will shake less than river-bottom soil — the kind of soil that is prevalent in many communities of Jackson County.
"It shakes like a bowl full of jelly," Rizzo said.
Based on geological data, a Cascadia quake typically starts in southern Oregon and makes its way northward.
"Southern Oregon has the highest risk," Rizzo said.
She noted that a subduction quake would be felt as far east as Idaho.
— Damian Mann