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Saturday, 23 December 2006

Yet another Earthquake

This morning, right after I got up. As all my California readers are certainly aware, sometimes very large earthquakes have foreshocks. These are a bunch of minor (or major) earthquakes that precede something really big. Not all really big earthquakes have foreshocks, but almost all have aftershocks, some of which are nearly as big as the major quake itself.

FEMA, the now-defunct US Emergency Management agency, made a list several years ago of the top three disasters likely to befall the US. The list included a terrorist attack in New York, a major hurricane hitting New Orleans and a large earthquake in the San Francisco region. Wouldn't it be great if Bush went 3 for 3? I'm sure Bay Area residents can expect all the same support, help, aid and relief that was offered to people struck by Katrina and all the transparency and honesty of the response to the Twin Towers disaster.

I don't live in a rich neighborhood. I'm screwed. Oh, and why is FEMA now defunct? Because it's part of homeland security. The Bush Administration doesn't care about disasters unless it means they get to start a war afterwards.

Ok so what's the deal with earthquakes? Ok, you know how continents slowly drift around over really long periods of time? They do it in little leaps and bounds. If you are on the border of the movement, you get shaken up when the movement happens. That's an earthquake. The surface of the earth is covered with really big puzzle pieces called "plates". The places where the plates touch each other are where earthquakes tend to happen. There are cracks and stuff along those borders. Those are called faults. They're what shakes. The whole Pacific Rim is covered with faults and therefore with earthquakes and volcanos. This is sometimes called the Ring of Fire.

The San Francisco aera is covered with tons of fault lines. Some are big and some are little. The big quake in 1989 was centered over 100 km south of Berkeley and was on the Loma Prieta fault. The big fault that goes very close to me is called the Hayward fault. It has not had a really big quake in a long time and thus is due for one. Sometimes in the next century. There's a reason the phrase "geological time" exists. Sometimes a bunch of little earthquakes is just a bunch of little earthquakes, but there's no certainty.

Everywhere in the world has risks. Low-lying areas flood. Some places have scary storms. Here, the ground shakes. But, my gods, the scenery is beautiful.

Links: USGS: Earthquakes, Disaster Preparedness

1 comment:

Jane said...

Thanks for the thoughtful post that articulates and reflects a lot of what I and I'm sure many others are feeling (I'm a Berkeley resident slightly unsettled by the 3 quakes)...