Within about a 1,000 yards from where I’m sitting at the moment, 4 or 5 earthquakes have hit in the last few days, three within the last day, all under magnitude 4.0. I felt only one of them, on Sunday afternoon. As the pole dancer with a heart of gold from Independence Day put it:
Captain Steven Hiller: Was that an earthquake?
Jasmine Dubrow: Not even a four pointer. Go back to sleep.
Right, except sub-4 pointers are unlikely to even wake up a native Californian.
One of these days, the Big One, Northern Edition, will hit, causing the mud flats all around the bay to liquefy, which in turn will cause the many structures built on them – homes, businesses, highways, aqueducts, power lines, gas pipelines, airports – to start sinking. Power, water, sanitation and transportation will be crippled for millions of people, even if their personal homes are OK (wood frame and steel frame buildings typically do quite well in earthquakes – at least, they don’t tend to fall on your head.)
This will be bad.
The Loma Prieta quake in ’89 was not the Big One. That quake, at magnitude 6.9 and causing $6 billion in damage and killing 63 people, was a piker. The 1906 quake – that was a Big One, magnitude 7.8 or so. The area was largely undeveloped at the time, yet 3,000 people died and 80% of the city was destroyed.
Today is not that day, at least so far.
I take this all for granted. If it ain’t an earthquake, it’ll be something else. We live in a wood frame house very near a barely active fault – you know, just like the Loma Prieta section of the San Andreas Fault before 1989. Faults are a bit like psycho killers – It’s the quiet ones you have to worry about.
In the meantime, the weather is very nice and the scenery is awesome. No blizzards, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes – and the volcanic eruptions are really very rare. Just earthquakes and brush fires. And it’s not like we have those every year.