Local tsunami expert gets firsthand account of earthquake

Local tsunami expert gets firsthand account of earthquake »Play Video
Chris Goldfinger via Skype from Tokyo Friday.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A Portland tsunami expert was in Japan when the massive earthquake hit, and he said Friday via Skype that it’s one thing to teach about earthquakes and tsunamis but another thing to live through them.

Oregon State University professor of marine geology, Chris Goldfinger, just happened to be in Tokyo for a conference about tsunamis when the first jolt hit.

“It just felt like you could literally feel the plates grinding together. It was just a very sharp, hard vibration that lasted, oh I don’t know, 20 seconds or something like that,” he said. “It was just like a jackhammer under your feet going on. It was just incredible.”

The shaking didn’t stop for another five minutes.

“You know it’s one thing to think about a five-minute long earthquake. But to ride through one it just seems like it just lasts forever. And the land under your feet is like water.”

Goldfinger has worked in OSU’s giant tsunami pool modeling a tsunami’s impact on Cannon Beach. The research is used to get ready for when a giant quake hits the Cascadia Subduction Zone off Oregon’s Coast.

“This earthquake is probably a near twin to the kind of thing that happened in the last Cascadia earthquake and probably a twin to the one we’re looking at for the next one,” he said.

“(There’s a) pretty good chance that in our lifetimes, this exact same thing could happen.”

In all the stunning images, the massive destruction and the incredible power, Goldfinger says there’s something not seen: People.

“The scale is all wrong. You can’t see people but you know there are people in those shots somewhere,” he said. “And, yeah, definitely all of us here, our hearts go out to people who lost loved ones and friends in that.”