Approximately half of all Americans are at risk from “damaging earthquakes,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey  report.
Among the lower 48, a total of 143 million Americans live in areas that could experience the “big one.” Among that number, a full 28 million live in places with “high potential” for ground shaking and 57 million live in “moderate” hazard zones.
The new USGS study is indicative of a surge in the number of Americans blissfully unaware that they would be affected by an earthquake. A previous report stated that a much lower number — 75 million people in 39 states — were exposed to earthquake risk.
Earthquake study co-author Mark Peterson said the uptick in the number of Americans exposed to earthquakes stems from an increase in population in high-risk areas like California and the addition of new earthquake zones, The Washington Post reported.
It’s no longer simply the West that is vulnerable. Now it’s much of the South, the Midwest and the Northeast.
The emergence of more earthquake zones is the result of advances in the research methods used to detect threats, the newspaper said.
“There are places in the United States where we think ground shaking could be significant and we ought to look at those areas to see if they are built to the safe levels that would correspond to these ground shaking levels,” Peterson said.
The report showed “there are thousands of schools, fire stations, hospitals and other facilities” in earthquake-prone areas, he added.
Even though the report puts much onus on the government for preparing, everyday citizens also have a big role, Peterson said.
“It’s … important that people who live in these areas understand they live in earthquake country and they need to understand that they should maybe prepare themselves,” he said.
“There will be populations that will be subjected to strong ground-shaking in these states if the pumping continues the way it is,” Petersen noted.
Meanwhile, a swarm of earthquakes has plagued Northern Nevada  this summer. Seismologists are monitoring the still-present activity which sparked three earthquakes that were stronger than magnitude 4. The string of earthquakes hitting the state over the past year include 20 of magnitude 4 and 209 quakes of magnitude 3.
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