It is no secret California is earthquake country. City, county, state, and federal government officials warn us all to be prepared for the big one. So when the 7.2 quake hit in the vicinity of China Lake Naval Weapons Center on July 5 at 8:19 p.m. the only surprise was that the quake wasn’t on the San Andreas Fault.

Watching the Cal Tech and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) seismologists brief the news media and public on live television was somewhat amusing. The unflappable Lucy Jones was somewhat rattled by the quake’s location. But you got to hand it to Lucy, she called it. The 6.4 quake earlier in the week could be a foreshock or precursor to another larger quake and Lucy was spot on.

Cal Tech is the world’s leader along with USGS in all things related to earthquakes. Gone are the old seismographs spinning with needles jumping on paper telling us what we already knew — that a quake or aftershock was occurring. Today you can watch the countdown live on a computer screen via television and see it predict the time to another aftershock and its even the estimated time that aftershock will hit.

While the science of prediction has improved dramatically since my first meetings at Cal Tech with Doctors Lucy Jones and Kate Hutton in the early 1990, our personal needs for preparedness in the home and office may not be keeping pace. If you don’t think earthquakes are a big deal that’s OK.

Semiologists have been tracking California’s earthquakes since 1932 and we have had 400,000 of them. Most of those go unnoticed. A handful have been devastating. As we are seeing now in and around Trono, Ridgecrest, and China Lake, residents and businesses are without water, power, and many of their homes and businesses are destroyed. The Naval Weapons Center is shut down as well.

While the President has declared a disaster in San Bernardino County, that won’t rebuild homes and business right away. Yes, those declarations free up federal resources and assistance and are greatly appreciated.The Governor’s declaration and the President’s are great. They just don’t get folks back in homes immediately or provide them with running water immediately. The federal, state, and local government responses to date have been good. They are helping the residents of these sparsely populated communities deal with a major earthquake and the recovery phrase is underway.

Let’s say that a 7.0 quake hits along the San Andreas Fault in Riverside County. Seismologists from just about everywhere are predicting a 7.0 or greater quake along the southern section of this fault and say the pressure underground is immense. With a population of 550,000 people near the potential epicenter and 2 million more close by, the implications for major injuries, water, sewer, electrical, and natural gas failures is immense.  Transportation along the 10 Freeway, our rail system, and even our airlines will be disrupted. Let’s not forget that our hospitals and clinics may be closed and operating outside those facilities.  So, if you and your family don’t have an earthquake and disaster plan in place now is the time. Your business, schools and colleges, and place of work also need a plan. If you need help developing a plan for your home or business contact your County Emergency Management Department or your city Emergency Manager. These dedicated professionals can and will help you.  They are just a phone call or email away from you. Don’t delay, the clock is ticking and readiness is your responsibility.


Image Sources

  • Earthquake: Image by Angelo Giordano from Pixabay