Earthquakes: The Big One Is Coming To At Least Los Angeles

8 09 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

While the damage from the recent Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand has been enormous, and the costs of rebuilding will be staggering, and the emotional trauma is unfathomable, Kiwis have much to be thankful for after the quake.

Having grown up in Los Angeles, I know that earthquakes are scary, because I lived through probably more than a hundred of them when I was a kid.  They would happen so often that I got used to them and even began to enjoy them.  As long as one has reason to believe in his or her own survival, one can find them interesting.   Our family home was near the UCLA campus in the Westwood suburb of the city; and it was constructed out of wood, so no serious damage ever occurred.

Years later, after working full time in Washington, D.C. for 21 years, I moved back to Southern California and experienced them again.  The first one hit when I was living in a house on the beach at Malibu, which had been built on wood pilings above the sand.  The rocking sensation was accentuated because of the pilings, and it scared me for the very first time.  Later, other quakes have unsettled me—as well as their aftershocks—perhaps because I had lost my fearlessness as a child.

California has experienced major earthquakes all of my life, including the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in the San Francisco Bay Area, which collapsed major roadways and buildings alike.[2] Earlier this year, the devastating earthquake in Haiti killed an estimated 230,000 people.[3] Also, I will never forget the “Spitak Earthquake” that was a tremor with a magnitude of 6.9—less than that of the 7.1 Christchurch quake—which took place on December 7, 1988, in the Spitak region of Armenia, then part of the former Soviet Union.  The earthquake killed at least 25,000 people.[4]

Geologists and earthquake engineering experts laid the blame on poorly-built apartments and other buildings.  However, most of all I remember the quote: “Earthquakes don’t kill people.  Buildings do.”[5] Viewing photos of the damage in and around the Christchurch area on the south island of New Zealand, it seems that so many of the buildings were made out of bricks and other building materials, which could easily fall on people and injure or kill them.[6] Indeed, it is a blessing that there were so few injuries.[7] Buildings can be rebuilt, and roads and other infrastructure elements can be repaired or replaced—which will produce much-needed jobs for Kiwis—but lives cannot be replaced as the Armenians and Haitians learned so tragically.

Another lesson from the quakes is the need for stronger building codes.  Los Angeles has adopted them; however, the steel joints in many high-rise office buildings were apparently weakened by the 1994 Northridge earthquake[8], and nothing has been done to repair them.  To remove tenants from the buildings, while the potentially-critical work is underway, was deemed to be politically and economically unpalatable.  Thus, the problems were swept under the rug and never addressed by building owners and the city’s politicians.  Los Angeles may rue the day that this happened.

Residents of Southern California are waiting for the “Big One” to occur sometime in the future, which geologists have been saying is long overdue.  Predictions are that it will measure more than 8.0 on the Richter Scale, and that approximately 2 million people in Southern California might lose their lives.[9] Thus, Kiwis must be thankful that the Christchurch quake relieved the pressures on the fault; and that while the damage is being measured in the billions of U.S. dollars, so few injuries occurred.

This is truly a blessing, unlike what happened in Armenia and Haiti, or what is being predicted for Southern California and along America’s New Madrid Fault Line—which could result in “the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States”[10]—and in Pakistan where lives hang in the balance as these words are written, because of massive flooding in that country.[11]

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g.http://www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2] See, e.g.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1989_Loma_Prieta_earthquake

[3] See, e.g.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_earthquake

[4] See, e.g.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1988_Spitak_earthquake

[5] Similarly, on the last two boats that I owned, I had a plaque placed next to the wheel by which the boats were steered that read: “The sea is not inherently dangerous but it is mercilously unforgiving of human carelessness.”  No accidents occurred, thank God.

[6] See, e.g., http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/image.cfm?c_id=1&gal_cid=1&gallery_id=113693#7075994

[7] See, e.g., http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10671356

[8] See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1994_Northridge_earthquake

[9] See, e.g., http://www.naegele.com/documents/LAEarthquake-80nRichter.pdf and http://www.naegele.com/documents/Sciencemagazinearticle.pdf

[10] See, e.g.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Madrid_Seismic_Zone

[11] See, e.g., http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Analysis/2010/09/03/Commentary-Cry-for-me-Pakistan/UPI-97951283512773/ (“Pakistan is reeling under the most devastating national catastrophe since independence 63 years ago”)


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29 09 2010
naegeleblog

Where Is Hayley Westenra Hiding?

Because the lovely Kiwi singer Hayley Westenra is so identified with her Christchurch roots, it seems obvious that she should put on a free benefit concert in Christchurch to help those who have suffered from the recent devastating earthquake. She should be front and center; and I am surprised that this has not been announced before now.

For many people around the world, she is their only link to Christchurch; and she needs to do more than a simple announcement expressing “thoughts” about what has happened. Some symbolic gesture—which a free benefit concert would represent—is needed. I am sure she and her family know lots of people who have suffered greatly.

Here is her public announcement:

06 Sep 2010 – Hayley’s thoughts are with Christchurch

Hayley sends her thoughts out to everybody in New Zealand affected by the weekend’s earthquake. Her thoughts are with all involved during this difficult time.

See http://www.hayleywestenra.com/

I had never heard of Hayley until a former Kiwi love of mine brought her to my attention. I listened to her music, and loved it. I watched her video comments about Christchurch, and felt her love for it. Hayley is living in the UK now, which is a long way from Christchurch; and Hayley’s hometown and its residents need her help.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, which is Hollywood, and I have worked in the entertainment industry. It is clear that Hayley is receiving very bad advice. She should have dropped whatever she was doing, and headed back to Christchurch; and whoever is managing her should have begun immediately to set the wheels in motion for a free concert there, bringing together other musicians from New Zealand and abroad.

She is the symbol of Christchurch—and for New Zealand—to many people around the world who know little or nothing about the tiny country. Also, at some point she will have to come to the “creative capital of the world,” Los Angeles, and make her mark in America, if she truly wants her career to blossom globally. By dropping the ball with respect to helping the people of Christchurch, her management and advisers have done her an enormous disservice.

It is argued that she has many other commitments that were made long before the earthquake, and that she is working on a new album, so she is very busy. Also, it is argued that she cannot fail to honor her other commitments because it might jeopardize her career in the UK—which is a relatively small market when compared to the United States. All of these arguments are specious and absurd. If Hayley will not help the people of Christchurch now, when will she do so?

. . .

Sadly, the remarks of New Zealand opera legend Dame Kiri Te Kanawa—about Hayley’s career not having much longevity to it—may have a ring of truth to them, especially if Hayley continues to suffer from bad management decisions.

See, e.g., http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/283916

. . .

Much of the world has watched the courageous and inspiring rescue of 33 Chilean miners with awe. In a world beset by wars, economic tsunamis, and other calamities that destroy the human spirit, this rescue effort is truly a breath of fresh air.

God did not create the miner’s problems, but it is truly a miracle that they have survived and been rescued, all of them.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/what-and-where-is-god

To his credit, the billionaire president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, embraced each miner and their family members; and it is likely that he cemented his place in the history of Chile, if not the world. The Chileans have handled this potential disaster with dignity, professionalism, and class.

See, e.g., http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11489439#video

What Bono and other celebrities have done when tragedies struck has left indelible impressions with their countrymen and women, and the world as well. This is exactly what Hayley should have done in the wake of the Christchurch quake. She should have seized the moment, and her management should have followed through.

It may not be too late for Hayley to help, but the clock is ticking. Moreover, the delay in offering help may speak volumes . . .

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24 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Is The World’s Largest Super-Volcano Set To Erupt?

This is the prediction set forth in a UK Daily Mail article, which is worth reading. It states in pertinent part as follows:

Two-thirds of the U.S. could become uninhabitable as toxic air sweeps through it, grounding thousands of flights and forcing millions to leave their homes.

This is the nightmare that scientists are predicting could happen if the world’s largest super-volcano erupts for the first time in 600,000 years, as it could do in the near future.

Yellowstone National Park’s caldera has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years and researchers monitoring it say we could be in for another eruption.

They said that the super-volcano underneath the Wyoming park has been rising at a record rate since 2004—its floor has gone up three inches per year for the last three years alone, the fastest rate since records began in 1923.

. . .

When the eruption finally happens it will dwarf the effect of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which erupted in April last year, causing travel chaos around the world.

. . .

The Yellowstone Caldera is one of nature’s most awesome creations and sits atop North America’s largest volcanic field.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1350123/Worlds-largest-volcano-Yellowstone-National-Park-wipe-thirds-US.html

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23 02 2011
Goose Howard

The UK’s Daily Mail is one of the poorest examples of a newspaper’s attempt at journalism that the modern world has ever seen.

Smith (and colleagues) have pointed out [in their Geophysical Research Letters paper] that the recent rise at Yellowstone is part of a well known natural cycle that is common for the caldera. There is no evidence to suggest that something altogether unusual is about to happen.

Yellowstone will explode at some point in the future. But it’s not very likely to happen in the lifetime of anyone alive in 2011.

Now the San Andreas fault, on the other hand…

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23 02 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Tragedy Strikes Christchurch Again

Thank you for your comments, Goose. Yes, I agree that the San Andreas Fault is another matter.

What has happened in Christchurch so soon after the last quake is tragic, to say the least. Our hearts and prayers go out to those who have suffered so.

As with all major earthquakes worldwide, the Kiwis will have to be on guard for aftershocks, which are apt to strike again without warning, and be even more terrifying.

Here is a sampling of articles about the quake, beginning with the New Zealand Herald, which will keep updating us on a regular basis at its homepage: http://www.nzherald.co.nz; http://www.google.com/search?client=gmail&rls=gm&q=Christchurch%20earthquake#client=gmail&rls=gm&q=Christchurch+earthquake&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbo=u&tbs=nws:1&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wn&bav=on.1,or.&fp=8c9e5f17d00a4db (Google News: “Christchurch earthquake”); http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704071304576160250898180340.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLTopStories (Wall Street Journal: “New Zealand Quake Rescue Effort Intensifies”); http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2011/02/new-zealand-quake-toll-at-75-dead-hundreds-missing/1?loc=interstitialskip (USA Today: “New Zealand quake toll at 75 dead; tallest hotel teetering”); http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/02/quake-experts-surprised-by-level-of-destruction-in-new-zealand-see-parallels-california-dangers.html (Los Angeles Times: “New Zealand earthquake surprises experts with its level of destruction; California parallels seen”); http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/newzealand/8341684/Christchurch-earthquake-shattered-Christchurch-counts-quake-dead.html (UK’s Telegraph: “Christchurch earthquake: shattered Christchurch counts quake dead”); see also http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-28/new-zealand-quake-damages-may-cost-as-much-as-15-1-billion.html (“New Zealand Quake Damages May Cost as Much as $15.1 Billion“) and http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/opinion/4711905/Enormous-costs-of-quake-huge-economic-blow (“Enormous costs of quake huge economic blow“)

. . .

New Zealand’s Hayley Westenra had just returned to the UK from Christchurch after visiting her family—and she offers her love, prayers and support to everyone in Christchurch where she grew up:

22 Feb 2011 – New Zealand Earthquake
My thoughts and prayers go out to the community in Christchurch and also to my friends and family who live there. I was only in Christchurch a few days ago visiting my family, it is now hard to imagine the devastation the earthquake has left behind. I am thankful that my own family are safe and unharmed but pray for everyone who now has to deal with the loss and aftermath of this terrible disaster.

See, e.g., http://www.hayleywestenra.com/

. . .

In a personal message that I received from one long-time Christchurch resident, the person said:

We as a family feel incredibly lucky as we are all alive and well. Our house has damage but it’s relatively minor compared with many, and we have running water and electricity.

My business wasn’t so lucky as it’s right in the middle of the central business district which probably took the biggest hit due to there being so many older multi level buildings.

It was an unbelievable sight out of my first level office window watching the frontages of buildings crumbling down. Once it settled down I ran downstairs to people screaming and more bricks and mortar tumbling down.

A few metres along from me a mother and daughter had been crushed, although I have since found out that at least the little girl survived. There must have been multiple deaths under the rubble along my street but as I write this bodies are still yet to be recovered.

It’s all so so sad for all those families who have lost someone, but also incredibly sad for the city I love. Half of it is a total mess, but the weird thing is that the other half is carrying on with some sort of normality having had only minor damage.

We’re in a state of limbo at the moment as naturally only essential services are open so work life has come to a halt, and it will be quite some time (and for some never) before business owners (me included) can access their buildings (if they are still standing).

Anyway though as I first stated we as a family feel unbelievably lucky.

Amen in spades!

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6 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Quakes Defy Experts, And Planning

The effects of New Zealand’s latest earthquake have been devastating for the small island country, and especially for the residents of Christchurch who have endured the effects of two quakes in such short order, and lost friends and loved ones alike. Again, our hearts and prayers go out to those who have suffered so.

A Kiwi has been kind enough to provide me with comments and articles, in response to my article above. His latest message said:

Cities are a great achievement but the occupants are certainly vulnerable. I can only join you in hoping Los Angeles does not have a similar earthquake.

I found this is interesting:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10710169

I read his article, and responded as follows:

Thank you again . . . for your message, your link, and your kindness.

I literally grew up with earthquakes, as my article indicates. In fact, I just reread it, and what struck me most—just as the comments of New Zealand’s supposed “experts” struck me when I read the article you cited—is how truly naïve all of us are, and how there are no experts, period, just people who think that they are. Nothing against the individuals quoted in your article, but the next quake in N-Zed may throw asunder all of their fancy theories and planning. Quakes have a “mind” of their own, and they defy the best of human thinking and planning. They occur whenever and wherever they like, and their results shatter conventional thinking and planning. It is tragic but true. The only rule that seems to apply is this: expect the unexpected.

In my article that was written shortly after the previous Christchurch quake, I said:

Residents of Southern California are waiting for the “Big One” to occur sometime in the future, which geologists have been saying is long overdue. Predictions are that it will measure more than 8.0 on the Richter Scale, and that approximately 2 million people in Southern California might lose their lives. Thus, Kiwis must be thankful that the Christchurch quake relieved the pressures on the fault; and that while the damage is being measured in the billions of U.S. dollars, so few injuries occurred.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/earthquakes-the-big-one-is-coming-to-at-least-los-angeles/

In retrospect, the earlier Christchurch quake may not have relieved the pressures on the fault much at all, and the injuries have been catastrophic, at least for New Zealand. However, residents of the south island and of [New Zealand's capital city] Wellington should not lull themselves into a false sense of relief, believing that the worst has passed. More may occur, which might be even more shattering. Again, expect the unexpected. That is what I learned growing up in Los Angeles. The quakes happened seemingly without any rhyme or reason. Living in a one- or two-story wood structure may be the safest, because they “sway,” but there are no guarantees. As my article stated, I lived in a structure built on wood pilings on the beach at Malibu; and when one quake hit while I was in it, the effects were nothing short of terrifying because the “rolling” was intensified by the pilings or “stilts.”

With respect to the overall subject of quakes, I do not believe there are any true experts. Yes, there are people who study the subject, like people study the weather or the stock market, and try to predict where the economy will go, or which horses will win at the race tracks. But none of them, and I emphasize the word “none,” are really experts. The buildings that they say are safe, or relatively so, will collapse or be severely damaged when a future quake strikes. Existing fault lines will be ignored, as quakes strike wherever and whenever they want. Like the task of rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit, there are zero guarantees that a similar or even greater tragedy will not occur.

I am sorry to be so negative, but I do not doubt for a moment that if the “Big One” hits LA and Southern California, there might be 2 million deaths, like nothing that this planet has seen before. The estimated death toll in Shaanxi, China after an enormous quake hit there in 1556 was more than 800,000. A mega-quake in LA might shatter that record, despite the fact that Southern California has had stringent building codes for most of my life, and is supposedly prepared.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_earthquakes#Deadliest_earthquakes_on_record (“Deadliest earthquakes on record”)

. . .

As more and more stories come out about the dead and the missing and the heroic actions of many people, one is reminded of the aftermath of 9/11 in the United States—in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., where planes struck buildings and slammed into the ground, and struck the Pentagon.

See, e.g., http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10710960 (“Thirteen more quake victims named”); see also http://www.nzherald.co.nz/christchurch-earthquake-victims/news/headlines.cfm?c_id=1503038

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11 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

WOW! THE BIG ONE HAS HIT: 9.0 OR 9.1 QUAKE, TSUNAMI STRIKE JAPAN, AS THOUSANDS ARE KILLED!

Loss

[Loss: Eiji Kanno, left, and his wife Matsuko are comforted by rescue workers after finding out their 18-year-old daughter Mizuki is dead in Yamamoto, south of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan]

The Wall Street Journal is reporting:

The strongest earthquake to hit Japan in at least 300 years rocked the country on Friday afternoon, triggering a 10-meter tsunami that violently engulfed cars and other objects in its path in northern Japan. . . .

. . .

The quake, one of the five biggest in history with a magnitude of 8.9, caused mass panic around Tokyo, where workers evacuated their buildings and power was cut off in 4.1 million households in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures. The natural disaster could derail the country’s nascent economic recovery and increase Japan’s already massive public debt, which is 200% of gross domestic product.

See, e.g., http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704399804576193650432765520.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

. . .

UPDATE:

The AP is reporting:

A ferocious tsunami unleashed by Japan’s biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday, killing hundreds of people as it carried away ships, cars and homes, and triggered widespread fires that burned out of control.

Hours later, the tsunami hit Hawaii but did not cause major damage. Warnings blanketed the Pacific, putting areas on alert as far away as South America, Canada, Alaska and the entire U.S. West coast. In northeastern Japan, the area around a nuclear power plant was evacuated after the reactor’s cooling system failed.

Police said 200 to 300 bodies were found in the northeastern coastal city of Sendai, the city in Miyagi prefecture, or state, closest to the epicenter. Another 137 were confirmed killed, with 531 people missing. Police also said 627 people were injured.

The magnitude-8.9 offshore quake unleashed a 23-foot (seven-meter) tsunami and was followed for hours by more than 50 aftershocks, many of them of more than magnitude 6.0.

Dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile (2,100-kilometer) stretch of coastline were shaken by violent tremors that reached as far away as Tokyo, hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the epicenter. A large section of Kesennuma, a town of 70,000 people in Miyagi, burned furiously into the night with no apparent hope of being extinguished, public broadcaster NHK said.

See http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110311/ap_on_re_as/as_japan_earthquake (“Hundreds killed in tsunami after 8.9 Japan quake”); see also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1367804/Japan-tsunami-video-Moment-coast-guard-crew-spot-wave-earthquake.html (“The moment Japanese coast guard crew went bow-first into the tsunami wave in the open ocean“) and http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/Tsunami_warning_center_raises_magnitude_of_Japan_quake_to_91.html (“Tsunami warning center raises magnitude of Japan quake to 9.1“) and http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/japan.earthquake.tsunami.earth/index.html?hpt=T1 (“Quake moved Japan coast 8 feet; shifted Earth’s axis“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365569/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-10-000-people-missing-Minamisanriku.html (“Swept away by the tsunami: 10,000 people missing in flattened town which bore brunt of killer wave caused by megaquake“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8377500/Japan-earthquake-like-dropping-the-Isle-of-Wight-into-the-ocean.html (“Japan earthquake was up to 1,000 times more powerful than the one that hit New Zealand last month“) and http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2011/03/77128.html (“Damage from mega quake increasing, death toll feared to top 1,700″) and http://www.france24.com/en/20110311-live-coverage-earthquake-japan (“Hundreds killed, thousands missing in Japan tsunami“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365546/Japan-earthquake-pictures-Devastation-rescue-workers-fight-fires-search-survivors.html (“Devastation and despair: Terrifying pictures reveal full horror of Japan’s worst quake“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365318/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-The-moment-mother-nature-engulfed-nation.html (“The big pictures: The moment Japan’s cataclysmic tsunami engulfed a nation“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365947/Hell-Earth-Ive-seen-20-wars-But-prepared-this.html (“Hell on Earth: I’ve seen 20 wars… but nothing prepared me for the sight of a town reduced to a morass of splintered wood, jagged concrete and twisted metal where 10,000 have died“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365243/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-Hawaii-struck-giant-waves-sweep-Pacific-Ocean.html (“Tsunami wreaks millions of dollars of damage on Californian harbours as giant waves smash U.S. west coast“) and http://www.news10.net/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=127779 (“Tsunami sweeps 5 to sea, rips out California docks“) and http://www.times-standard.com/rss/ci_17600235?source=rss (“Crescent City harbor ‘destroyed’ in tsunami; man swept off beach near Klamath missing at sea“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365712/Here-comes-Moment-tsunami-wave-rolled-San-Francisco-Bay-captured-film.html (“Here it comes: Moment the tsunami wave rolled into San Francisco Bay captured on film“)

Again, as stated in my article above:

Predictions are that [if, or rather when the "Big One" hits Los Angeles,] it will measure more than 8.0 on the Richter Scale, and that approximately 2 million people in Southern California might lose their lives.

One cannot fathom the devastation and human suffering that would occur if a 9.1 quake hit Southern California.

Shattered building in Rikuzentakada, Japan

[Rescue workers survey the damage from the top of a shattered building in Rikuzentakada, Japan]

. . .

EVEN WORSE, MONSTER AFTERSHOCKS AND TSUNAMI MAY STRIKE SHORTLY

See, e.g., http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366093/Japan-earthquake-Experts-predict-eruption-tsunami-hit-stricken-country-days.html (“‘Our worst crisis since World War Two’, admits Japanese PM as scientists warn nation faces SECOND monster quake and tsunami,” “Second ‘monster’ quake could measure almost 8 on the Richter scale,” “Terrible tide of at least 2,000 bodies wash up on the coastline”“) and http://www.smh.com.au/environment/monster-aftershock-could-strike-within-days-20110313-1bt2p.html and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365569/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-10-000-people-missing-Minamisanriku-aftershocks-hamper-rescue-efforts.html

Just as happened in New Zealand, the aftershocks in Japan may be far worse. Also, given the magnitude of this quake, the aftershocks are likely to be equally severe or even more so in terms of the loss of life and physical damage.

Again, our hearts and prayers go out to the Japanese people.

. . .

ALSO, U.S. WEST COAST IN PATH OF RADIATION FALLOUT

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is reporting:

California is closely monitoring efforts to contain leaks from a quake-damaged Japanese nuclear plant, a spokesman said Saturday, as experts said radiation could be blown out across the Pacific.

While officials downplayed any immediate danger, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission deployed two experts to Japan, where the Fukushima plant, which was rocked by a large explosion earlier in the day in the aftermath of Japan’s strongest-ever earthquake.

See http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/03/12/california-closely-monitoring-japan-nuclear-leak/ (“California ‘closely monitoring’ Japan nuclear leak”); see also http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/15/us-japan-radiation-leaking-directly-into-idUSTRE72E7B220110315 (“Japan radiation leaking ‘directly’ into air: IAEA“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366055/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-America-nuclear-alert-Fukushima-explosion.html (“America on nuclear alert: Could fallout from Japan explosion reach U.S. West Coast?“) and http://www.prisonplanet.com/if-there-were-a-reactor-meltdown-or-major-leak-at-fukushima-the-radioactive-cloud-would-likely-be-blown-out-towards-the-us-west-coast.html

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15 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Is Southern California Next?

The UK’s Daily Mail is substantiating—in a sobering and important article entitled, “Is California next? Experts warn U.S. West Coast could be next victim of devastating earthquake on Pacific’s ‘Ring of Fire'”—what I have written above:

The U.S. West Coast could be the next area shaken by a big earthquake, experts warned today.

The earthquakes last Friday in Japan, last month in New Zealand and last year in Chile all happened along the ‘Ring of Fire’ that encircles much of the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists believe the West Coast could be hit as part of a cluster of earthquakes, with a Pacific Northwest fault having similar characteristics to the one underneath Japan.

Experts can’t be certain where or when the next earthquake will be but the West Coast risk has increased because it is in the same volatile geological system.

‘The Pacific Northwest—what we call the Cascadia Subduction Zone—has the same kind of characteristics as the fault beneath Japan,’ seismologist James Gaherty told CBS.

‘We’re worried about a large subduction zone similar to Japan,’ Mr Gaherty, of the Lamont Research Center at Columbia University, told CBS.

The Ring of Fire is a chain of large faults associated with the Pacific plate’s interaction with surrounding plates, which can produce earthquakes and volcanoes.

‘If you think of the Pacific plate as a square, we have had a major earthquake in the Northwestern side of that square (in Japan),’ author Simon Winchester told MSNBC.

‘On February 22 we had Christchurch in New Zealand in the Southwest of the square. Last year we had a major earthquake in Chile in the Southeast of that square.

‘The fourth leg of the square, the fourth side, is where the San Andreas and the Cascadia forms. That hasn’t ruptured—if either (does) there could be major problems.’

The last time California’s San Andreas Fault ruptured was in 1906, when the area of San Francisco was devastated by an earthquake and fires.

‘California has significant risk—the San Andreas Fault,’ he said. ‘(But) California, we’re not going to get a big tsunami producing event. Pacific Northwest, we might.’

Christchurch in New Zealand was rocked last month by a 6.3 quake that killed 166 people, and around 550 people died after Chile was hit in February 2010 by an 8.8.

Friday’s 8.9 earthquake was the highest ever recorded in Japan, compared to the 8.3 Great Kanto Earthquake in Tokyo in 1923, which killed more than 140,000 people.

Japan was better-prepared for last week’s earthquake thanks to strict urban building quakes, but there are always risks with the unpredictable nature of a quake’s location.

A big reason for Haiti’s death toll of 300,000 from the January 2010 quake—outside of the Ring of Fire—was the poor conditions and building codes, reported CBS.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366198/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-US-West-Coast-victim.html#comments

What this article neglects to point out, however, is that—as cited in two articles that are referenced in footnote 9 of my article above—faults that crisscross Southern California may be capable of rupturing in concert to produce larger earthquakes than previously thought. This conclusion was the result of studies of the 2002 Denali Fault Earthquake that rocked Alaska, which was the largest quake to strike on land in North America in nearly 150 years.

The findings suggested that a rupture on the Sierra Madre Fault could trigger an earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. It is believed that an earthquake that struck simultaneously on both faults could be as large as magnitude-8, or larger than expected so close to Los Angeles. Indeed, it was stated:

Were a similar quake to occur on some segments of the San Andreas, its energy could be focused directly at the Los Angeles region.

See also http://www.sciencemag.org/content/300/5622/1113.short

. . .

UPDATE:

Because of possible radiation from the nuclear meltdowns in the wake of Japan’s earthquakes, the U.S. Surgeon General is encouraging West Coast residents to buy Iodide tablets—and there is a sudden run on such pills.

It has been reported:

The fear that a nuclear cloud could float from the shores of Japan to the shores of California has some people making a run on iodine tablets. Pharmacists across California report being flooded with requests.

. . .

[T]he United States surgeon general supported the idea as a worthy “precaution.”

U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin is in the Bay Area touring a peninsula hospital. NBC Bay Area reporter Damian Trujillo asked her about the run on tablets and Dr. Benjamin said although she wasn’t aware of people stocking up, she did not think that would be an overreaction. She said it was right to be prepared.

On the other side of the issue is Kelly Huston of the California Emergency Management Agency. Hoston said state officials, along with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the California Energy Commission, were monitoring the situation and said people don’t need to buy the pills.

“Even if we had a radiation release from Diablo Canyon (in San Luis Obispo County), iodide would only be issued to people living within a 10-mile radius of the plant,” Huston added.

Santa Clara County’s public health officer Dr. Martin Fenstersheib told the Mercury News he also does not recommend getting the tablets, adding some people can be severely allergic to the iodine.

“There is no reason for doing it,” Fenstersheib told the paper.

Either way, the pills are hard to get. eBay prices have skyrocketed.

See, http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Surgeon-General-Buying-Iodine-Appropriate-118031559.html; see also http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/03/15/drug-stores-report-sudden-increase-potassium-iodide-sales/

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15 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

New Madrid

Most Americans have never heard of New Madrid, much less the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which had four of the largest North American earthquakes in recorded history, with magnitudes estimated to be as large as 8.0, all occurring within a three-month period between December 1811 and February 1812. It is mentioned in my article above, and the UK’s Daily Mail has reported:

Amid the outpouring of concern for disaster-ravaged Japan, experts claimed that many more areas of America are at risk from catastrophic earthquakes than most people realise.

Most Americans associate quakes with the West Coast, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

But 39 out of the 50 states—including New York and Tennessee—have moderate to high seismic hazard risk.

The ‘New Madrid’ fault line in the heart of the country is particularly dangerous and could affect more than 15 million people in eight states—Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

The roughly one million people living in and around Memphis are said by the U.S. Geological Survey to be at the greatest risk of a major earthquake of 7.0 or 8.0 on the Richter scale.

The fault, running from St Louis to Memphis, was the site of some of the worst ever quakes to hit the U.S. The series of four tremblers in 1811 and 1812 were so powerful they reportedly caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards.

There was said to be damage as far afield as Washington DC and Charlotte, South Carolina.

According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Geological Survey, the southern states are unprepared to ride out a major earthquake, both in terms of planning and infrastructure.

There are also 15 nuclear power plants in the fault zone that are of similar design to those battling meltdowns in Japan.

‘Memphis has an ageing infrastructure, and many of its large buildings, including unreinforced schools and fire and police stations, would be particularly vulnerable when subjected to severe ground shaking,’ said the report.

‘Although Memphis is likely to be the focus of major damage in the region, St. Louis, Missouri, Little Rock, Arkansas, and many small- and medium-sized cities would also sustain damage.

‘The older highways and railroad bridges that cross the Mississippi River, as well as older overpasses, would likely be damaged or collapse in the event of a major New Madrid earthquake,’ it added.

Another study by the Mid-America Earthquake Centre estimated that nearly three-quarters of a million buildings would be damaged, 3,000 bridges could collapse, there could be 400,000 breaks and leaks to pipelines and the total clean-up bill could total as much as $900 billion.

. . .

Another well-known fault line is in New York City, crossing along 125 Street from the Hudson River to the East River. The Ramapo Fault runs about 70 miles through New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

South Carolina is also home to an active faultline and had a 7.6-magnitude quake in Charleston in 1886.

Both Hawaii and Alaska, along with West Coast states, are in the red danger zone as having a high propensity for disasters.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Madrid_Seismic_Zone and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366603/Think-living-Tennessee-makes-safe-earthquakes-The-earthquake-map-America-make-think-again.html (“Think living in Tennessee makes you safe from earthquakes? The earthquake map of America that will make you think again“)

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7 04 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Vast Debris Field From First Japanese Earthquake And Tsunami Floating Toward America’s West Coast

The UK’s Daily Mail has reported:

A vast field of debris, swept out to sea following the Japan earthquake and tsunami, is floating towards the U.S. West Coast, it has emerged.

More than 200,000 buildings were washed out by the enormous waves that followed the 9.0 quake on March 11.

There have been reports of cars, tractor-trailers, capsized ships and even whole houses bobbing around in open water.

But even more grizzly are the predictions of U.S. oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer, who is expecting human feet, still in their shoes, to wash up on the West Coast within three years.

‘I’m expecting parts of houses, whole boats and feet in sneakers to wash up,’ Mr Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle oceanographer who has spent decades tracking flotsam, told MailOnline.

Several thousand bodies were washed out to sea following the disaster and while most of the limbs will come apart and break down in the water, feet encased in shoes will float, Mr Ebbesmeyer said.

‘I’m expecting the unexpected,’ he added.

Members of the U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet, who spotted the extraordinary floating rubbish, say they have never seen anything like it and are warning the debris now poses a threat to shipping traffic.

. . .

Scientists say the first bits of debris from Japan are due to reach the West Coast in a year’s time after being carried by currents toward Washington, Oregon and California.

They will then turn toward Hawaii and back again toward Asia, circulating in what is known as the North Pacific gyre, said Mr Ebbesmeyer.

. . .

‘All this debris will find a way to reach the West coast or stop in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ a swirling mass of concentrated marine litter in the Pacific Ocean, said Luca Centurioni, a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

. . .

Meanwhile Japan’s meteorological agency says it has now lifted a tsunami warning for the north-eastern coast after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck offshore.

The quake hit about 11.30 pm today Japan time. It has rattled nerves nearly a month after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that flattened the same area of coastline.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1374520/Cars-houses-severed-feet-shoes-The-vast-field-debris-Japan-earthquake-tsunami-thats-floating-U-S-West-Coast.html (“It is difficult to say just how big the area of ocean trash is, but some reports say it is roughly three times the size of Texas”); see also http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_japan_earthquake (“Another strong quake rattles tsunami-ravaged Japan”)

As indicated, the first of many aftershocks has struck Japan already, which will occur again and again in the next six months or so. Some may be devastating—just as horrendous as the first quake, in terms of physical damage and the loss of lives.

One must not forget the recent quake that hit Christchurch in New Zealand—which killed so many, even though the first quake there did not kill anyone—was an aftershock following the one that struck six months before.

As stated in comments above this one, given the historical magnitude of Japan’s first quake, it is not unreasonable to believe that one or more aftershocks might be of an 8.0 magnitude or thereabouts, which would be considered the “Big One” if it hit Southern California.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/earthquakes-the-big-one-is-coming-to-at-least-los-angeles/#comment-1493

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11 04 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Another Major Earthquake Hits Japan, As Nuclear Plant Dumps Radioactive Water Into The Ocean

As discussed in the comments above, it is not surprising that another major quake has hit Japan; and even more devastating quakes can be expected. In an article entitled, “New 7.1 quake hits Japan as evacuation zone widens,” the Bangkok Post reported:

Japan on Monday widened the evacuation zone around a stricken nuclear plant exactly a month on from a huge natural disaster as another 7.1 magnitude quake and tsunami alert strained nerves anew.

The latest aftershock caused buildings to sway in the capital Tokyo, shortly after the nation had observed a minute’s silence to remember the 13,000 people killed in the March 11 disaster and the 15,000 who officially remain missing.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.1 onshore quake hit at 5:16 pm (0816 GMT) at a depth of just 13 kilometres (eight miles). Its epicentre was 81 kilometres south of Fukushima city, near the troubled nuclear plant.

Japan’s meteorological agency warned that a one-metre (three foot) wave could hit Ibaraki prefecture, one of the areas pummelled by last month’s massive tsunami, before cancelling the alert less than an hour later.

Another tremor of 7.1 on April 7—just one of thousands of aftershocks to hit the traumatised country—killed at least two people and cut electricity across a huge area of northern Japan.

Workers battling to contain the crisis at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant were evacuated after the latest quake Monday, which briefly knocked out power to crippled reactors before electricity was restored.

. . .

Prime Minister Naoto Kan promised Sunday he would “never abandon” tsunami survivors as he tried to focus attention on the future, despite the continuing high-stakes battle at the nuclear plant.

Kan, on only his second trip to the disaster zone in the month since the tragedy, said the government would “work as fast as possible” to house the more than 150,000 people still living in emergency shelters.

Underlining the threat of long-term health damage from radiation, the government on Monday said it was to widen the evacuation area around the atomic plant to include some towns outside the current 20-kilometre exclusion zone.

Those areas were liable to receive potentially hazardous radiation levels of 20 millisieverts per year, top government spokesman Yukio Edano said, while stressing there was no deterioration at the Fukushima plant.

Engineers at Fukushima who last week sealed a leak spewing highly contaminated water into the sea have begun installing a “silt curtain” to try to prevent radioactive mud from spreading around the ocean.

But at the same time, plant operator TEPCO is deliberately dumping more than 10,000 tonnes of mildly radioactive water into the ocean to free up urgently needed storage space for highly toxic liquid.

See http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/world/231483/new-7-1-quake-hits-japan-as-evacuation-zone-widens (emphasis added); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/earthquakes-the-big-one-is-coming-to-at-least-los-angeles/#comment-1493 and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1376119/Japanese-tsunami-video-The-life-death-race-outrun-giant-wave.html (“Swallowed by the tsunami: Horrifying new footage shows life and death race to outrun giant wave“)

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10 05 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

“Fairly violent” 5.3 earthquake rocks Christchurch

Christchurch Cathedral damage

The New Zealand Herald reported:

A 5.3 magnitude earthquake has rocked Christchurch early this morning, GNS Science reports.

The aftershock was centred 20km west of Christchurch, at a depth of 15km, striking the city at 3.04am.

. . .

The aftershock is the second largest to strike following the devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22.

It was also the 25th earthquake Canterbury has had measuring five or more on the Richter scale since the 7.1 magnitude earthquake on September 4.

Prime Minister John Key said the quake has not caused any further considerable damage, but it “gnaws away at the confidence of Cantabrians who want this to end and for things to return to normality”.

. . .

Newstalk ZB’s Jo Scott, said the constant shaking doesn’t get any easier, especially when they come in the middle of the night.

“We’ve had a total now of 5490 aftershocks and it’s not nice. It’s definitely something that is hard to deal with. It’s very hard for people in Christchurch, especially when they’re woken.”

Canterbury residents have told Newstalk ZB they feel exhausted and under siege.

“You feel like soldiers, you’re hanging in there but people are only human and they do break down,” one caller said.

See http://www.nzherald.co.nz/christchurch-earthquake/news/article.cfm?c_id=1502981&objectid=10724533

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11 02 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

The Big One [UPDATED}

San Francisco after 1906 earthquake

We have witnessed the recent devastating quakes and tsunami in Japan, and the quakes at Christchurch on the lovely south island of New Zealand. The “Big One” is expected to hit Los Angeles, and perhaps in the St. Louis area along the New Madrid Fault Line as well.

What will they look like? Obviously the photos from Japan and Christchurch, which appear in comments above these—and are available at the links that are cited—show the devastation in spades. However, it is useful to look at what happened to San Francisco in 1906 after its 7.9 magnitude quake struck—when the city was leveled, more than 3,000 lives were lost, and approximately 225,000 were injured.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2099768/A-city-ruins-Stunning-photo-captures-devastation-San-Francisco-earthquake-1906.html (“A city in ruins: Stunning photo taken from kite that captures devastation from 1906 earthquake in San Francisco”)

Yes, the United States and other countries have more stringent building codes today. However, will they really make any difference? As discussed above, high-rise office buildings were damaged in the Northridge Quake that struck Southern California in 1994; and instead of fixing them at enormous costs (e.g., tenants needed to vacate the buildings), the damage was swept under the rug.

The chickens may come home to roost in spades; and liquefaction may occur in areas such as Los Angeles’ Marina del Rey harbor, where high-rise buildings may literally collapse.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/earthquakes-the-big-one-is-coming-to-at-least-los-angeles/ (“Earthquakes: The Big One Is Coming To At Least Los Angeles”) and http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-earthquake-concrete-20131013-dto,0,1555748.htmlstory (“EARTHQUAKES: CONCRETE RISKS”); see also http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/12/11/imagine-america-without-los-angeles-expert-warns-southern-california-isnt-ready-for-major-quake/ (“‘Imagine America Without Los Angeles’: Expert Warns Southern California Isn’t Ready For Major Quake“) and http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-earthquake-fault-building-20131230-dto,0,1585622.htmlstory#axzz2ozge8hN0 (“L.A., Santa Monica buildings may sit atop quake faults“) and http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_CALIFORNIA_EARTHQUAKE?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2014-03-30-15-57-15 (“7.5 QUAKE ON CALIFORNIA FAULT COULD BE DISASTROUS“) and http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/earthquakes-in-chile-and-l-a-raise-fears-about-ring-of-fire/ (“Earthquakes in Chile and L.A. Raise Fears About ‘Ring of Fire’”)

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