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Those who forecast natural disasters say it’s probably a good thing that Crescent City continues to prepare for the worst. The North American Pacific Coast lies on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which at some point is expected to produce an earthquake roughly the magnitude of the March 11 Japan temblor. As with that quake, scientists fear the greatest loss of life could be caused by the resulting tsunami.

The last time the Cascadia fault ruptured was Jan. 26, 1700. Although its impact on the North American coast is unknown, Japanese written records show it created a tsunami that killed several people and damaged harbors in Japan, Ms. Dengler said.

“This is the event I’m really concerned about,” Ms. Dengler said. “This is the event [in which] we need to put our energy and preparedness. … This event requires everyone to understand nature’s warning. It requires everyone to understand that they need to take immediate action if they’re in harm’s way and get out of it.”

When will it happen? “Sometime in the next 200, 300 years,” she said, “and it could be this afternoon.”

Such an event undoubtedly will catch many coastal communities off guard. Crescent City won’t be one of them.

“We’re always going to have disasters here, just like all over the world. Everybody has their own disasters,”Ms. Henderson said. “I think we’ll just continue on, we’ll keep preparing, and we’ll do the best we can to get ready for anything that they throw at us.”

c Valerie Richardson reported from Denver.