Stephen Reidel.

Stephen Reidel likes to tell his geology students at Washington State University’s Tri-Cities campus some good and some bad news about earthquakes in the area.

The good news, he tells them, is that a magnitude 7.0 earthquake—like the one that devastated Mexico City last year—only happens around here once every 10,000 years.

“The bad news is that the last one was 10,000 years ago,” said Reidel, an adjunct professor at the school.

While earthquakes are not the biggest threat facing Central Washington—wildfires, floods and windstorms are more likely—they are still enough of a threat that Reidel and emergency planners want people to take it more seriously. Especially since when—not if—a big one hits, the government might not be able to help quickly.

While communities in western Washington, which are exposed to the threat of a tsunami from a quake off the coast, are taking major steps at earthquake preparations, eastern and central Washington residents, for the most part, appear to be lulled into a sense of false security, Reidel said, because of the infrequency of earthquakes.

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