West Coast residents have been bracing for its arrival for a long time.
But that doesn't make it any less bearable to watch a simulation of the damage a projected 9.0-magnitude earthquake could wreak if it hits.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) produced an animation two months ago showing what the Pacific Ocean looked like after an estimated 9.2-magnitude quake along struck the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) on Jan. 26, 1700.
The CSZ is a faultline that runs approximately from Vancouver Island to northern California. The intensity of the quake was so strong it generated a tsunami that hit Japan nine hours later.
The PTWC's simulation shows vibrations beginning along North America's West Coast and spreading across the ocean over the course of 48 hours.
Waves hit Pacific Rim areas including Hawaii, Japan and Southeast Asia. The deep red indicates waves reaching heights of three meters or more.
The video provides a frightening portent of what Pacific countries can expect when an earthquake dubbed "The Big One" strikes the West Coast.
An aerial photo of Pacific Rim National Park, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, B.C. (Photo: Chris Cheadle/Getty Images)
North America is situated on a tectonic plate that ocean crust is essentially trying to dig itself under.
The problem is that part of the plates have become lodged, and generating stress accumulated over centuries, raising the risk for for a possible megathrust earthquake for the region.
Such a quake could spell destruction in B.C., Washington state, Oregon and California. The projected natural disaster was the subject of a much-shared New Yorker article last year that renewed fears about its risks.
As many as 13,000 people could die following the earthquake and resulting tsunami, and up to 1 million people may possibly be displaced, it noted.
Earthquakes such as this happen along the CSZ every 300 to 600 years.
In other words, it's about time.
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