Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | March 2, 2010

The Earthquake in Chile…Are we ready?

I’ll admit it.  I’ve been in denial.  After the MASSIVE quake in Chile, my brain shut down.  A quake of 8.8 is too big.  Can’t compute.

The photos and information just has me in a state of shock, denial, disbelief.  It’s just too big.

NASA has  shared the fact that the earthquake was so strong tht it changed the earth’s axis by a few microseconds…

“Earthquakes can involve shifting hundreds of kilometers of rock by several meters, changing the distribution of mass on the planet. This affects the Earth’s rotation,” said Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who uses a computer model to calculate the effects.

“The length of the day should have gotten shorter by 1.26 microseconds (millionths of a second),” Gross, said today in an e-mailed reply to questions. “The axis about which the Earth’s mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches).”

But is it strong enough to change the way we think here?

The photos of collapsed buildings and highways, cracks in pavement, of stunned faces are…are…

Brain shutdown.

I live in an earthquake zone. The Bay Area is known for the Great San Francisco Quake of 1906 and the Loma Prieta of 1989.  But I live on the Hayward Fault which hasn’t shaken in a loonnnnnggggggg time – the last one was in 1868.  It could shake as drastically as the Chilean quake because of built up stress. (Here is a good website from Berkeley Seismological Laboratory about the Hayward fault:   And Americans – especially Californians – should come to the realization that the fate that Chileans have suffered CAN HAPPEN HERE.

So the Chilean quake should be a wake up call for us.  The Chilean citizens are a test case for what could happen to us here. They have a strong government and economy (unlike Haiti), so they should be in better shape to recover from this disaster.  They have a prosperous society.  They have resources.

But if Chile can be shut down by this quake (we’re still trying to find out how to best help them – their needs are different from the victims of the Haiti quake), we need to pay attention because we in N. California are pretty similar.  Ask all the seismic researchers who are sitting up and paying attention.

A massive earthquake here could have similar effects on our local governments, our neighborhoods, our businesses, our economy.

Brain shutdown…

They have used seismic design in many of their modern buildings.  So have we.  But their older homes, like ours, didn’t have seismic design incorporated into them.  Here in the East Bay if you want to know where some of our earthquake faults are, just find a freeway, highway, or hospital, or major transportation arteries…Highway 580, Mountain Boulevard, Oakland Kaiser and Highland Hospitals just to name a few.  Really.  Most of these areas sit directly on a fault.  Hayward, Calaveras, Concord-Green Valley.  Woo hoo.  The Association of Bay Area Governments has lovely Earthquake Shaking Hazard Maps for those of us lucky to live here in the beautiful Bay Area.  By the way, find where our reservoirs are located.

The pretty colors are earthquake faults.

And for those people who don’t think that the Bay Area quake would affect them, no?  Consider how many imported goods enter through the Bay Area.  Oh, and not to mention agricultural goods.   Are we ready to respond to a quake that shuts down ports and railroad and trucking lines?  I’m worried that if we couldn’t deal with (and still aren’t) the disasterous Hurricane Katrina damage, how are we going to handle a massive earthquake here?

Brain shutdown…

To the people of Chile:

I have so much in common with you.  I can’t even express my thoughts about what has happened to you.  Please show us how to be strong.  Please show us how to be resilient.  Please show us how to rise above this disaster.  You are my role models.  My prayers and hopes are with you.



  1. Oh yes. A good friend here in town has pointed out that the new soundwall on 580 will not only funnel freeway noise onto her street, but the water from the notably dangerous Chabot dam. Yes, we are asleep!

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