Headline of the Day; Earthquake

1. Pro-pot initiatives could like, totally help Democrats retain the Senate. Dude. 

That’s almost exactly what it said, I swear!

Wow! Washington does look better when viewed through a drug-fueled haze…

2. 20 miles away, the 6.0 quake didn’t wake me up. Very little damage outside the immediate area around Napa and American Canyon.TV pictures always make it look worse than it is – a thousand square miles of undamaged suburbs doesn’t make much of a picture, news-wise, The Loma Prieta Quake in ’89, which was much bigger than this one, still only did damage in a few particularly vulnerable places – 95% of the Bay Area was back to normal within a few days. The Cypress Structure in Oakland, and the Bay Bridge damage was serious, as well as damage to structures built on fill in the Marina (Fun fact: that fill was what was left of the building in downtown San Francisco after the 1906 quake – it was a marsh before that.) Other than that, stay away from unreinforced masonry buildings, and you’ll do fine – up to about a 8.0.

I didn’t appreciate the news freaking out our 10 year old. He’s at that age where everything worries him (especially after his brother’s death). So he’s ready to move somewhere NOW. We had to explain that there aren’t really any places on the planet that are all that much safer from natural disasters than where we live. Every century, we have maybe 2-3 bad earthquakes. But no hurricanes, serious tornadoes, blizzards (unless you want a blizzard – then go to the mountains, and you can have one), very few floods. It’s all earthquakes and brushfires, which frankly don’t happen much. Every millennium or so we have a volcanic eruption.

Also, if you want to get real philosophical about it, you can even make a case that California is such a great place to live *because* of seismic activity: the mountains and volcanoes, which are lovely, make for our fertile valleys and keep all of California from being a desert; the crust block under San Francisco Bay, which sits between the San Andreas and Hayward faults and is slowly sinking,  keeps the Bay from silting up solid. The Bay is responsible for the lovely area weather – not too hot, not too cold.

But the reality: we are so doomed, and we know it – when that 8.0-ish quake hits, all the power and water goes down – aqueducts and transmission cables straddle faults – and all the major roads are out, as the roads are either built on mudflats or fill (80, 880, 101) or run through areas with serious rockslide potential (280, PCH, 680), or both.

Another fun thing to contemplate: there are hundreds of square miles of farmland in the Delta that are protected by levees. These levees are mostly old earthworks, and will crumble in a big earthquake. But that’s not all: the farmland they protect is, after drying out and settling for 100 years or more, significantly below river level. When the levees break, millions of gallons of water will flow in. But, wait! There’s more: since the Bay is actually an estuary, AND much of the water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers is diverted to agriculture, the Bay is a more or less thin layer of fresh water on top of salt water. Over the years, the salt water has intruded farther and farther up as the fresh water flow that pushes it out has decreased. So: the levees break, sucking in vast quantities of fresh water – so salt water flows in to take its place. The places that used to be fresh water and now salt water. Which happens to include the drinking water purification facilities for several million people.

The aqueducts will be down, and the local water supply largely destroyed. And there won’t be intact roads to ship water in to many places. I need to put in a survival bunker. Add that to the To Do list.

Farms in the Delta. Miles and miles of levees. You might wonder: why not repair and strengthen them? Would cost a Sagan-load of Billions. Better: why not have the state buy, oh, 2% of the farmland every year, and puncture the levees one at a time s-l-o-w-l-y? California has a a bazillion acres of farm land – it wouldn’t make a dent, and might save thousands of lives and billions of dollars down the road. And, hey – wetlands!

No wonder Californians party hard and vote Democrat – we ain’t got a future anyway. Only kidding a little.


Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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