Southern California Headed for Disaster|When Big Quake Hits, Say Experts

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — Despite years of warnings, Southern California still is unprepared for a major earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, which could cause natural gas-fueled wildfires and cut water supplies to millions of people, a task force said Thursday.
     The Southern California Disaster Risk Reduction Committee’s 20-page report, “Strengthening SoCal,” says lack of preparation poses a significant and immediate threat to Los Angeles and the entire region.
     A large earthquake could move one side of San Andreas Fault by 30 feet, creating a chain reaction that could spark rampant chemical fires and significantly damage transportation infrastructure.
     Though many Californians worry about the so-called Big One, seismologists have warned for years that there will be no Big One — there will be Big Ones over and over. It’s just a matter of when.
     The committee sought to identify earthquake-related hazards and solutions, and persuade public leaders to implement them. Seismologist and committee adviser Lucy Jones said that while such scenarios may be overwhelming to think about, there are straightforward solutions that can reduce a large earthquake’s impact on Southern California.
     “Don’t fall into the trap of, ‘It’s so impossible, so we can’t do anything,’ or, ‘We have to do everything.’ Take a piece. Get it done. You’re now better off. Go on to the next one,” Jones said. “There’s plenty that can be done.”
     The committee of officials from public and private organizations around Southern California focused on five key areas of natural disaster preparedness, including infrastructure interdependence, education, social capital as a solution and addressing gaps in building resilience.
     The group includes executives with Walt Disney, Wells Fargo, Southern California Gas, Southern California Edison, the Port of Los Angeles, the Southern California Association of Governments and Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.
     The report cites Cajon Pass as an example of the dangers posed by infrastructure interdependence, citing its proximity to Interstate 15 north of San Bernardino and combustible natural gas and petroleum pipelines.
     A large earthquake on the San Andreas could rupture the pipelines and lead to an explosion large enough to leave a crater.
     Disconnections between people could prevent them from working together to minimize collateral damage. The report notes that many people in South California do not know their neighbors.
     Shaking from a significant earthquake would likely burst water and natural gas pipelines, leaving communities without access to clean water and vulnerable to the threat of massive city fires.
     The committee recommends quake-proofing key lengths of pipe in the system and installing remote-control gas shutoff valves and high-pressure distribution pipelines.
     While Los Angeles began retrofitting collapse-prone brick buildings in the 1980s, many cities in Southern California have not. Without retrofitting, bricks and other building debris can become lethal projectiles.
     Two women in Paso Robles died when an unretrofitted brick building collapsed during the 2003 San Simeon earthquake.
     University of Montana researcher Rebecca Bendick summarized the importance of earthquake preparations after studying the 2015 7.8 magnitude Gorkha earthquake in the Himalayas, which led to six months of aftershocks.
     “The pervasive lack of information transfer from earthquake research to people living in zones of high earthquake hazard has led to hundreds of thousands of fatalities in the past decade, a crisis unlikely to change in the future unless basic earthquake literacy is provided to those at risk,” Bendick said.
     The San Andreas is the longest fault system in California, stretching nearly the length of the state, which is riddled with thousands of other faults.

%d bloggers like this: