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Experts say a big earthquake is due to shake Southern California soon—the only question is “when?” While California is known for its natural beauty and unbeatable year-round weather, it is also the state that experiences the most damaging earthquakes. And although the state has experienced several relatively moderate quakes in recent years, the big one on the horizon will be vastly more severe and damaging. Coachella Valley residents should be especially prepared, as the seismic event will undoubtedly affect the area.
The reality is, it’s only a matter of time before this “big one” happens. The earthquake that makes all the others the state has experienced in recent history seem like the minor leagues. According to Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), the southern portion San Andreas fault is in a “critical state,” and a large earthquake is imminent.
The SCEC warns that the southern portion of the fault system has not experienced a major release of stresses since 1857. The San Andreas fault is located at the intersection of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. The plates are both moving north, but the Pacific plate is moving faster, causing stresses to build up. These stresses will eventually have to be released, meaning an earthquake along the southern fault is inevitable.
In 1906, the northern portion of the fault experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, affecting the San Francisco Bay area. But the southern portion of the fault has yet to release the stresses that have been building for decades. According to SCEC Director for Communication Mark Benthien, everything in the Coachella Valley will shake, unlike anything we have experienced in modern times.
How Big will the Earthquake Be?
While magnitude is most frequently used to describe the impact of an earthquake, it is not actually the best indicator for the amount of damage that will be done. According to human behavioral scientist Dr. Dennis Mileti, what really matters when it comes to earthquakes is the severity, duration and intensity of the shaking.
If you’ve seen the movie San Andreas, you’ll be relieved to know that much of the damage shown in the film is unrealistic. The San Andreas fault is the result of two tectonic plates sliding past each other. There is no subduction—where one plate is being forced below another—making a 9.0 magnitude earthquake unrealistic.
Instead, there is a 75% chance that a 7.0 magnitude event will occur in the next 30 years, and a 7% probability that an 8.0 magnitude event could happen. A magnitude 9.0 event—portrayed in the 2015 movie—would release 1,000 times the energy of a magnitude 7.0. Additionally, the San Andreas fault does not lie beneath the ocean, so the earthquake that is produced from this fault will not generate a tsunami like it does in the film.
Although it won’t be as devastating as the movie portrayal, the big earthquake will certainly be destructive. According to Brooke Federico of the Riverside County Emergency Management Department in Indio, there will be heavy shaking for up to three minutes. There will be water main breaks, impacting the water supply, and buildings will likely come down.
In a model 7.8 magnitude event studied by the United States Geological Survey, the earthquake would damage 966 roads, 90 fibre optic cables, 39 gas pipes and 141 power lines across the fault zone. Fires would erupt, likely causing more damage than the initial quake. The death toll predicted in the study was 1,800.
Emergency services emphasizes that resources will be stretched thin when the quake occurs. Thus, it is vital that individuals and communities are prepared for the worst. In the Coachella Valley, it could be days—even a work or more—before help arrives to your community.
Here are 5 things to do to prepare for “the big one”:
- Connect with your local community. If there is a plan in place, familiarize yourself and your family with it. If your community does not have a plan, get in touch with the Coachella Valley Emergency Readiness Group (CVERG). They are a group of residents who help groups, such as neighborhoods and country clubs, become prepared for disaster. Contact CVERG at (760) 834-8270.
- Do your best to earthquake-proof your home. Secure heavy furniture, TVs and appliances with earthquake straps, so they don’t fall down during an event. Invest in “tremor hangers” for pictures and artwork on the walls.
- Purchase and securely store non-perishable food and water. To truly prepare for the worst scenario, keep at least a week’s’ worth of food and water stored in your home. It is entirely possible that emergency assistance will not arrive to some areas for a week or more. Prepare to care for yourself, your family and your neighbors if necessary.
- Put together your earthquake kit. Make sure you have the following stored in an easily accessible area:
- Tools: hammer, pry bar, wrench, duct tape
- Lights: Flashlights and other battery operated light sources
- Plenty of extra batteries
- Battery- or solar-powered radio
- Extra sets of all your keys
- Battery-operated fan
- First aid kit
- Emergency blanket
- Plastic sheeting
- Household bleach
- Water purification tablets
- Rubber gloves
- Manual can opener
- Basic utensils
- Paper towels
- Pet supplies, if applicable: Litter box, collar/ID tags, leash, pet crate, grooming items
- Practice for the big event. Each year, millions of people participate in the national Great ShakeOut event. This is a drill that you and your community can register for, to put your emergency plan to the test. This year, the Great ShakeOut takes place on October 19 at 10:19 a.m.
The Bottom Line on the Big Earthquake
Experts make it clear that the big earthquake is bound to occur in the next 30 years. Unfortunately, we cannot predict earthquakes like we can the weather, so citizens must prepare for the worst. Remember that this could be a disaster unlike anything our area has experienced in our lifetime. This means that emergency services will be overwhelmed, and help could be many days away. Thus, preparation at the individual and community levels is vital to surviving the aftermath of “the big one.”
“It is only a matter of time before a big earthquake strikes Southern California, greatly impacting us here in the Coachella Valley. We encourage everyone to educate themselves and to be as prepared as possible,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.
Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.
DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.