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What Bremerton commuters can expect from the big one

One seismologic hazard facing the Central Kitsap area is crustal faults, mainly a Seattle fault that runs from east of Seattle through the Puget Sound and splitting the Kitsap Peninsula in half near Bremerton. Heidi Houston, professor in the Earth and Space Sciences Department at the University of Washington, said these faults, which are relatively shallow compared to faults like the Cascadia Subduction Zone, are similar to what caused the January earthquake in Haiti. - Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey
One seismologic hazard facing the Central Kitsap area is crustal faults, mainly a Seattle fault that runs from east of Seattle through the Puget Sound and splitting the Kitsap Peninsula in half near Bremerton. Heidi Houston, professor in the Earth and Space Sciences Department at the University of Washington, said these faults, which are relatively shallow compared to faults like the Cascadia Subduction Zone, are similar to what caused the January earthquake in Haiti.
— image credit: Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

Armageddon is an unlikely scenario if, or when, the big one hits Bremerton.

But what residents can expect if the earth moves like it has recently in Haiti, Chile and Turkey — and Hawaii to a lesser extent — may be a really long commute home.

“You’re not going to have devastation, you’re going to have pockets of problems,” said Susan May, spokeswoman for the county Department of Emergency Management.

If a quake occurs in the middle of the day when ferry commuters are in Seattle, they may not make it home right away.

“Seattle has to plan for folks stranded on that side, and we have to plan for folks stranded on this side,” May said.

Immediately following a serious earthquake, state ferry terminal engineers would inspect the terminals, said Marta Coursey, ferries spokeswoman.

Normal service would resume for unaffected terminals and alternate routes would be used for ferries with damaged terminals. Ferries destined for Bremerton would be redirected to Southworth or Bainbridge Island, and Seattle ferries might go to Fauntleroy or Edmonds.

In the unlikely event that all of the state terminals are somehow destroyed, Washington State Ferries would seek out alternate docking locations. Most ferries have the on board fuel supplies to operate for up to two weeks, if necessary.

If a tsunami warning is issued, Coursey said, the best place for the ferries to stay would be in the open Puget Sound to avoid the dangers of being docked at a terminal.

The Hood Canal and Tacoma Narrows bridges are predicted to withstand earthquakes, but the Bremerton area would be in the best position to withstand an earthquake after the new Manette Bridge is finished. The 80-year-old bridge now in place is susceptible to damage, but its replacement, scheduled to open in late 2012 to early 2013, will be up to the state’s seismic standards.

At that point, Bremerton’s biggest weakness would be the Warren Avenue Bridge. DeWayne Wilson, bridge management engineer at the state Department of Transportation, said that the Warren Avenue Bridge is on the department’s list for its seismic retrofit program, which is updating bridges and roadways to increase their chances of surviving major earthquakes. But because the department’s highest priorities are along the I-5 corridor from the McChord Air Force Base near Lakewood to Seattle, the Warren Avenue Bridge will have to wait at least 20 years for its turn at a seismic retrofit. And when its turn does come around, it takes about six months to analyze the bridge’s needs and another six months to design the improvements.

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