California is well-known for its diversity. The state is home to every race, culture, religion, or ideology that you could possibly think of. But if there’s one thing that all of these millions of people have in common, it’s that they are all well aware of the dangers lurking underneath the state. Everyone knows that someday, the “big one” is coming, and it’s going to bring California to its knees.
And not only is everyone in California well aware that the state is overdue for some major seismic activity, but everyone has known this for decades. It’s a very basic fact of life that is even taught to Californian kids when they’re in school. It’s not just something that Californians hear about on the news from time to time, it’s a story they tell to each other over and over again. The impending threat of the next big earthquake is ingrained in California’s culture.
Everyone knows what’s coming.
And yet, somehow, California isn’t equipped to deal with this disaster. Despite having a wealthy economy that rivals most first world nations, and despite having decades of advanced warning, California has still failed to prepare for the next major earthquake in several critical ways.
According to a recent report put together by several prominent business and policy leaders, California’s aging infrastructure is going to result in widespread destruction that would have been preventable with basic safety features. Most notably:
One of the biggest vulnerabilities, the report states, relates to the Cajon Pass, a narrow mountain pass where the mighty San Andreas Fault intersects with key lifelines, including freeways, railway lines, gas and petroleum pipelines as well as electric lines.
A major earthquake on the San Andreas, one of California’s most dangerous faults, would cut most lifelines in and out of southern California, preventing critical aid from reaching some 20 million people and hampering recovery efforts, experts say.
The quake would also rupture flammable pipelines, triggering explosions and fires that could burn out of control.
“Anything that comes into southern California has to cross the San Andreas Fault to get to us—gas, electricity, water, freeways, railways,” said seismologist Lucy Jones, who acted as advisor for the Southern California Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative committee, which issued the report.
And on top of that, California’s building codes are not robust enough to handle a major earthquake. Most of the state’s structures are sturdy enough to prevent the deaths of their inhabitants, but that’s about it. In the hardest hit areas they’ll still be destroyed. Unfortunately, most of California’s homes and buildings haven’t been reinforced sufficiently to handle a major quake, which would cost a fraction of what it would take to rebuild them.
So brace yourselves for the “big one” even if you don’t live in California. It’s going to kill thousands of people within the state, and cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damages, which will surely have an effect on the rest of America’s economy and food supply. California’s lack of foresight and action in the face of a well-known threat is going to hurt everyone.