Experts warn the San Andreas fault is ‘ready to go’
by Isabelle Z.
As Californians go about their daily lives, many of them remain blissfully unaware of the threat lurking in the background: a monster earthquake that scientists say is long overdue.
Southern California Earthquake Center director, Thomas Jordan, remarked that the fault has been unusually uneventful since 1857, when the last big earthquake to hit a southern section struck the area from Monterey County to the San Gabriel Mountains near L.A., in a quake that registered 7.9 on the Richter scale.
Scientists are now saying that arrival of the type of massive earthquake that normally strikes every few hundred years is just a matter of time, and it could leave thousands or even tens of thousands of people dead or homeless in its wake.
Jordan told the National Earthquake Conference in Long Beach, “The springs on the San Andreas system have been wound very, very tight and the southern San Andreas fault, in particular, looks like it’s locked, loaded and ready to go.”
He added that other areas of the fault, which measures 810 miles in total, are also highly vulnerable. Scientists believe that the Pacific plate should move northwest of the North American plate about 16 feet every century in order to relieve stress, but this has not been happening, which means that stress has been building up to unsustainable levels for more than 100 years.
Jordan feels that the state needs to prepare itself for such a devastating event, and commended the city of Los Angeles for its plans to reinforce the city’s older buildings made of concrete, as well is its telecommunications networks. The fault does not run under the city itself, but could rock it nevertheless.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 7.8-magnitude quake could cause as many as 1,800 deaths, 50,000 injuries, and damages totaling $200 billion, in the course of just two minutes.
An earthquake of this magnitude has not been seen since 1857, when a quake that started in Parkfield, Monterey County, worked its way down the fault for 185 miles, before heading east from Los Angeles. The power of the quake caused it to liquefy soil and destroy countless buildings, although it is important to note that the areas affected were not nearly as built up at that time as they are now.
Next quake could be even worse than predicted
Making matters even worse, some experts believe that the next earthquake could coincide with one rippling along the adjacent San Jacinto fault line, which happens to run through more densely populated cities, and could escalate the devastation to much higher levels than predicted. This is what is believed to have occurred in 1812, and there is a strong chance that it could happen again, as past geological events are considered good indicators of future ones.
While Jordan praised L.A. for its preparedness, other experts believe that the area is not adequately prepared for such a devastating natural disaster.
Professor Lisa Grant Ludwig of the University of California said, “In southern California, much of our infrastructure was built to withstand a rupture of either the San Andreas or San Jacinto faults, but not both at the same time.”
California officials have been working together with state and military officials to set out plans for what to do when “The Big One” strikes. It is believed that civilian and military personnel and equipment would be deployed, including cargo planes, ships and helicopters, along with thousands of soldiers, emergency officials and medical personnel.
The Washington State Army National Guard’s Lt. Col. Clayton Braun said, “The response will be orders of magnitude larger than Hurricane Katrina or Super Storm Sandy.”
Preparedness is key to surviving a natural disaster
With experts predicting that a 7.8-magnitude San Andreas fault quake could cut off all four of the area’s aqueducts at one time – thereby cutting off more than 70 percent of Southern California’s water supply – it is important for people to be aware of the possibilities and prepare accordingly.
People living in the area and its surroundings need to prepare themselves for the possibility of being cut off from electricity, food, water and lines of communication and transportation. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that law enforcement can become so overwhelmed in such events that criminals and opportunists could get away with widespread burglary and looting. Therefore, it is essential to have a good supply of drinkable water, nutritious food that does not need to be cooked, a battery-powered radio, water filtration devices, emergency medical supplies and self-defense items, to name just a few.
The next earthquake is a question of when, not if, and those who take adequate measures now have the best chance of survival.