Train crashes, ferry crashes, ambulance crashes, bus crashes, car crashes, plane crashes... Power outages, bombs, collapsing restaurants, mass shootings, sinkholes, super storms... Is there a natural or man-made disaster that Grey's Anatomy hasn't covered yet in its 11 years on the air? The answer is, surprisingly, yes — at least according to the press release for next week's episode. The hour will feature perhaps the unlikeliest catastrophe yet to strike the city of Seattle in the episode "I Feel The Earth Move:" an earthquake. According to ABC's press release, "An earthquake shakes the ground at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, trapping Maggie in an elevator and threatening Meredith's long streak of successful surgeries." I don't know about you, but I'm getting major Season 1 vibes from the Maggie-in-an-elevator storyline. Remember when George had to perform surgery while trapped in an elevator? Good times, you guys.
I know what you're all thinking right now: "An earthquake in Seattle? Yeah, right!" Seismic activity isn't exactly rampant in the Pacific Northwest, and this particular disaster seems to be stretching it, even for Grey's. But hey — after more than a decade, there are only so many disasters left for the writers to tackle. In the interest of fairness, I decided to do a little digging to see just how unrealistic this plot really is. And by "a little digging," I obviously mean "a little Googling."
A search of the phrase "Could an earthquake happen in Seattle?" yields surprising results. Turns out it wasn't a stupid question at all... or at least not nearly as stupid as the first auto-completed question about earthquakes: "Could an earthquake split the world in half?" (Really, Internet?) There is in fact a fault line that runs east-west through Puget Sound and underneath the city of Seattle itself — appropriately named the Seattle Fault. This fault has been the origin of Native American legends ever since it triggered a large earthquake in the region about 1,100 years ago. The local natives attributed the movement of the earth and the subsequent flooding and landslides to a spirit named a'yahos.
900 A.D. wasn't the last time an earthquake struck, either. The most recent earthquake in Seattle actually happened fairly recently, on Feb. 28, 2001. Registering at a magnitude of 6.8, the quake caused about $2 billion worth of damage in the state of Washington; thankfully no one was killed by quake-related injuries, although one person is reported to have died from a heart attack during the event. So while it doesn't sound like we're talking about San Andreas levels of devastation here, it actually does seem plausible that a minor quake could at the very least leave someone trapped in an elevator somewhere.
I don't get the sense that "I Feel The Earth Move" will instantly become another of Grey's Anatomy's iconic disaster episodes a la "Into You Like A Train," "It's The End Of The World," or "Death And All His Friends." By its very nature, the earthquake can't possibly last for the entirety of an episode, like a bomb scare or a shooting spree. It seems more likely that the unexpected disturbance will simply serve to propel Meredith and Maggie's plots into crisis.
Unless of course I'm totally wrong and the earthquake triggers a tsunami that ends up inundating the hospital. Maybe George Clooney will make a surprise guest appearance during the episode to dramatically rescue a kid from a flooded storm drain.