Portland bridges, West Hills at risk during earthquake if 'big one' hits

Portland bridges, West Hills at risk during earthquake if 'big one' hits »Play Video
Hundreds of homes and buildings were damaged in the Napa Valley earthquake.

PORTLAND, Ore- It's safe to say he loves his job.

That's because University of Portland geology professor Robert Butler has his very own seismometer.

It's the first thing he checked when he heard about a 6.0 earthquake rattling Napa, California. His charts show it only took the seismic waves from the quake about three minutes to reach Portland.

While there's certainly a lot of damage in Napa, Butler says California has done a much better job than Oregon in terms of retrofitting buildings and infrastructure.

If a 6.0 hit close to the metro, he says bridges, like the I-5 crossing would take the most damage.

"That bridge is quite vulnerable both because it's old, it wasn't built with idea of withstanding earthquakes to begin with. It's also crossing a river so it has its footing is on fairly soft geologic materials," Butler said.

Then there's older homes, those in the hills face the greatest risk. But even houses on flatter land, like his in North Portland are vulnerable.

That's why he decided to bolt his house to his foundation, a $2,000 investment but one he says all homeowners should consider.

"I view it however as a good investment in your home because it's insurance you don't have to pay for every year," Butler said.