Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The next Big One

It's been 100 years since the San Andreas fault ripped along a 300 mile rift and the resultant 7.9 San Francisco Earthquake nearly leveled the city on April 18, 1906, but today, little more than one in four Californians are ready for the next inevitable Big One.
Should another earthquake like the one that hit the San Francisco Bay Area 100 years ago strike today, the result would be an unprecedented natural disaster more than four times as devastating as Hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans.
The psychological impact could be even worse. Death and destruction from an earthquake can be instantaneous with virtually no warning, unlike a forecasted hurricane which if you’re smart you try to avoid and leave the area.
Just days before the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake, the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University, San Jose, CA released results of a poll revealing 70 percent of Californians believe a big quake will strike the state and affect them, but only 22 percent say they are well prepared. The newly released, quake information-packed United States Geological Survey's "Putting Down Roots In Earthquake Country" says there's a 62 percent probability that a quake of magnitude 6.7 or greater will occur in the region by 2032, but fewer than 10 percent of households have disaster plans, fewer than 10 percent of home owners have taken steps to retrofit their homes and fewer than 50 percent of households have disaster supply kits.
Half of those surveyed by the university institute had confidence that the government is well prepared or somewhat prepared to provide disaster assistance after a significant quake. A faith-in-government is somewhat wishful thinking given governments' response after Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina, at about $35 billion, was the nation's costliest natural disaster thus far, but a major quake now in the San Francisco Bay Area would cost more than four times as much, $150 billion, cause the death of 1,800 to 3,400 people, damage 90,000 buildings and displace as many as 250,000 households, according to "When the Big One Strikes Again," a report just released at the three-day 100th Anniversary Earthquake Conference held this week in San Francisco.
Prepared by the engineering firm Charles Kircher & Associates in Mountain View and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the study used computer models to estimate how a 1906-type quake would impact the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, home to more than 7 million people. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to be there.
According to the report a 7.9-magnitude quake along San Andreas would cause up to $34 billion in building-related losses in San Francisco, $28 billion in Santa Clara County, $26 billion in San Mateo County and $15 billion in Alameda County. No damage would be done to the Capital Region, which is another good reason to be here.


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