Governments, business, residents and communities in southern California are largely unprepared for a major earthquake that can occur any day, according to the authors of a major study on disaster risk prepared by the University of Southern California (USC) that has implications for the rest of the nation.
“Water and power delivery systems could be off for weeks, housing for tens of thousands could be damaged and specific aspects of our infrastructure could be disrupted or rendered unusable,” states the report, Strengthening SoCal: Southern California Disaster Risk Initiative, prepared by experts at USC’s Bedrosian Center for Public Policy Research.
Although the report specifically involves southern California, it nevertheless gives an indication of how long services might be out for the rest of the country after a major disaster, especially a big earthquake.
The study, released on June 22, draws some frightening conclusions, including:
- Many of the water lines in Southern California will burst during an earthquake, leaving residents dependent on bottled water for weeks or months.
- Natural gas pipelines would rupture, creating massive fires that could destroy large areas of cities. Since there would be no water, there might be no way to put out those fires.
- Many of the natural gas pipelines in Southern California lack shut-off valves, making it difficult to turn gas off after an earthquake . Broken natural gas pipelines might fuel massive wildfires.
- Many businesses lack the equipment needed to keep running for days after a disaster — such as generators and backup power systems. This includes hardware stores, which are essential to rebuilding.
- Many local governments are as unprepared as businesses. That means police, firefighters and ambulances might not be available.
- Large numbers of people would be injured or killed because many building codes do not require earthquake-proof structures. That means many homes, offices and business will collapse.
The study’s authors fear that critical industries would simply pull out of California completely rather than rebuild, and would take thousands of jobs with them.
San Andreas Could Be Close to The Big One
Geophysicists think that California’s most dangerous fault, the San Andreas, might be close to giving way, The Los Angeles Times reported.
New computer imaging technology has detected rising and sinking on the fault  that could indicate a big quake is imminent. Areas of the fault in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Bakersfield counties are rising at a rate of about 1/10th of an inch a year. Other parts of the fault in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and San Bernardino counties are sinking at the same rate.
“Once there is a major event, all of that energy gets released,” geophysicist Sam Howell told The Times.
There has not been a major quake on the southern San Andreas fault since 1857. A major quake takes place, on average, every 150 years, Howell said. Other parts of the fault haven’t seen a major quake in 300 years.
Despite that, experts still cannot predict when the next big one will hit.
“It’s pretty much impossible to say when the next one will happen,” Howell said.
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