I was always surprised to hear folks from other parts of the country talk about one of the main reasons they wouldn’t live in California: earthquakes.
The fear seemed irrational. Sure, earthquakes are unpredictable, but the big ones don’t occur very often. At least we don’t have a season where we expect Mother Nature to kick our ass.
I may understand these folks a little more now.
The first earthquake I remember, the 1987 Whittier Narrows quake, struck while I ate breakfast before school. I was in second grade and my mom still sent me to school after the quake, but we spent the day just playing around ’cause so many kids stayed home. As a kid, I thought earthquakes were fun. I didn’t realize that the epicenter for this quake was only a few miles from my house and that we were lucky there was no damage to our home.
I recently learned that the Whittier Narrows quake ruptured a small segment of the recently discovered Puente Hills Fault. If I remembered a little more from my college earthquakes course, I could tell you what it means that the fault is a “thrust fault” (I think it goes under another plate). The fault runs from northern Orange County to downtown LA.
I still wouldn’t be too worried about this. But now that I’ve read the latest news from the US Geological Survey on how a potential quake at the Puente Hills fault of magnitude 7.2 to 7.5 could result in thousands of fatalities (3 to 18,000) and $250 billion in damages, I’m getting a little nervous.
Damn, when I was a kid, earthquakes used to be fun. They’re not so fun when you’ve seen the damage from other quakes (Loma Prieta in 1989 and Northridge in 1994) in California and throughout the world.
Oh yeah, and it also doesn’t help that the home where I grew up and my parents currently live is a few miles away from Puente Hills. Eek.