Angelenos have heard about “The Big One” their entire lives - so much so that some seem to have gone deaf to the warnings. Every time earthquakes come up in conversation, we know that we are supposed to have a plan, supplies, and food + water. The danger we know is boring.
But it’s new information that catches people’s attention.
Scientists have learned more about our seismic history, and what it means now. According to the USGS, we have a 93% chance of a 7.0+ earthquake in the next 30 years, and there are several ways it can hit. First, there is the probability that the faults directly underneath the LA basin will rupture, shaking violently beneath us. Southern California is fractured with faults we know about, and others we don’t yet recognize. The Northridge fault, for example, was unknown until it caused the 6.7 magnitude quake in 1994.
However, scientists now fear the highest probability of a megaquake is east of the basin - the Inland Empire and the Salton Sea - and the ways it could cripple the region. A quake on the San Andreas is particularly dangerous because the fault’s shape funnels energy directly towards LA, unleashing a disaster that we haven’t seen since California became a state. Shaking could last for as long as three minutes.
Another recent study of the San Andreas near the Grapevine found that major earthquakes are expected on that part of the fault every 100 years. The gaps between major quakes have been 20 years to 200 years, with the strongest earthquakes happening after the longest gaps. It’s been 160 since the last.
Why This Could Be So Devastating
The next major quake on the southern portion of the San Andreas would be crushing because of it’s layout and location:
- The megaquake that concerns scientists would release more energy than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima
- The shape funnels energy west towards the LA Basin
- The LA Basin is made of sand and gravel - materials through which earthquakes are magnified
- It could destroy miles of I-10 and other key interstates that straddle it
- It would sever key rail lines, essential water aqueducts, and crucial power lines
The biggest concern is that the next major earthquake will sever power, oil and gas lines for weeks or months, leaving the LA region without power and energy. A lapse that long would be unprecedented in recent US history outside of Hurricane Katrina, which led to brutal living conditions, and could lead people to abandon the LA area.
Famous SoCal seismologist Lucy Jones says “it’s not so much about dying in the earthquake. It’s about being miserable after the earthquake and people giving up on Southern California.” This is a key point, because many push off preparation because they think it’s futile. Not so.
Most of us will survive the immediate earthquake, but the challenge starts when the shaking stops. Experts agree that millions may be without water, electricity, gasoline, and communications for days, even weeks. Hospitals and urgent care stations will be overwhelmed and won’t be able to care for all the injured. Damaged roads and closed banks, grocery stores and pharmacies will require people to have planned ahead. Communications and supplies will be very hard to come by.
Experts expect that to last for days, weeks, or longer. The damage to the region’s infrastructure could take a year or more to fix, and that’s why emergency response agencies cannot stress enough the need for each of us to be self-sufficient in the aftermath. That means being stocked with food, water, off-the-grid light and communication sources, and well as the tools and first-aid needed to take care of ourselves individually for the first days or weeks.
Progress, or Lack thereof
The good news is that scientists have been installing early-warning systems up and down the west coast. That system could give LA up to a minute of warning that a major earthquake is about to hit. Unfortunately, President Trump’s budget proposes cutting out Federal funding for the early warning system, prompting elected officials from Southern California to urge the administration to reconsider.
What We Can Do
Above all, we need to encourage our neighbors, families, friends and neighborhoods to get prepared to be self-sufficient. Every emergency response agency from CERT to FEMA urges people to have the basics at home, in the car, and at work / school to survive for the first few days to a week. It’s our responsibility to make sure we are ready, as government agencies won’t be able to help most of us right away.
That means having food, water, shelter, warmth, first aid, hygiene items, tools and other supplies packed and ready to go at a moment's notice. Whether you build your own, or buy one that is tailored to your family, get it done now. We built The Earthquake Bag to give people the best option for the best price, and to make it super easy to prepare your family right now. Check out EARTHQUAKE BAGS HERE.
Additionally, call or write your representative in Congress, and encourage them to fight for funding for the early warning system here in Southern California. It’s an important step for the nation’s most populous state, and the second biggest city in the country, to deal with the risks we face from our geography. It’s up to us to get involved, and make sure our homes, workplaces and communities are prepared.