Friday, June 17, 2005

NOT AFTERSHOCKS

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Fourth big quake in California in less that that many days. Think there is a pattern here? Well, evidently, the game plan is to put everyone's head in the sand and hope this all just blows over.From AP comes this:
Stephanie Hanna, spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey, said Thursday night's quake was likely an aftershock from Tuesday's shaker.

The early afternoon quake was centered near Yucaipa in San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. About 25 aftershocks followed in a little over an hour, the strongest estimated at magnitude 3.5.
And "aftershock"? Since when do aftershocks achieve nearly the same level as the first, big one? The government geologists tried to lie about the "aftershocks" in Java but when the 8.7 one hit, after a few days, they grudgingly admitted it was no mere "aftershock". Defining things is always slippery. In the case of earthquakes, doubly so. Usually, when there is adjustments going on that quiver into place after the bigger slip as all the surrounding rock readjusts.

But when there is a major rearrangement happening, the quakes either get bigger and bigger along an entire fault line as it is still doing in Java or they tremble along an entire line up and down for several months ending with a great quake. What we are seeing is such a rare occurrence: when the whole planet is very deformed and the stresses are now popping all over the place. When the Boxing Day event happened, it wasn't the final move after a build up that released energy and then quieted down again...it was the beginning of a great rearrangement along a very long major fault line.

Since that day, the place has shaken nearly nonstop sometimes very violently and it isn't done yet. Now we are seeing the mirror to that event here in North America. Perhaps we will be spared a terrible series of events but reality is, that is highly unlikely. Obviously, there is tremendous stress now on the San Andreas as the events happening at the top and bottom of that long and dangerous fault line so clearly shows. The fact that this "aftershock" is nearly as great as the original shock should be noted by the government geologists.

I never took a single course in geology in my life. I grew up around geologists and my parents did a lot of research in this area on the side because all observatories are perched on mountains and picking mountains out and understanding them is vital to this enterprise, so I sort of sucked in this information and read a lot of research. One thing I know is, scientists will say things at home they won't say outloud in public.

When the debate raged over nuclear testing, the official government mantra was, nuclear testing doesn't harm anyone. They even had soldiers stand close to blasts and then march in as the dust blew about them (most of them are dead now). This was all bunk. My parents were terrified if the wind blew from the east for it was radioactive dust so when I was very small, I was taught to fear the east wind and to this day, I become visibly nervous when the wind is from that direction. By 1960, I was old enough to begin arguing with my dad about this (10 years old). By 1962, these arguments were raging.

The scientists, all of them, knew and kept mum but nervousness about their own families finally forced them to come out and tell the truth. Took forever.

Watching this process today would amuse me except people are slated to die. All the people who make money off of pretending California is a safe place to live and there is little to worry about and the building codes which are obviously hopelessly inadequate for that geological reality, will be OK is sad. Like Florida, I have always contended that humans building there should be required to build sanely. Spending billions of dollars constantly rebuilding is not a long term option for a civilization. My home costs are higher due to this activity. Only once in a blue moon do the homes in my region need to be rebuilt. Actually, a fair number that are 300 years old stand just fine.

But we all have to pay home owner's insurance that covers the cost of the destruction of buildings that are poorly built in dangerous places. So it is my interest to see some sane building codes in California or Florida. Only I have zero influence on either state. These codes should come from DC or better yet, make home insurance local so states with crummy codes that are inadequate for their environment will be forced to do something.

One of the things that puzzles me most is why humans don't want to heed warnings. I am aware of the sense of fatalism that pervades the human soul but some things are easily evaded and earthquakes is certainly on that list. People choose to move to California and live there. They tout its wonders and boast about the climate. The sudden floods and fires terrorize them but they pooh pooh it in the end after sweeping up the remains and burying the dead, they go back to the fun in the sun lah de dah lifestyle, purchased at my expense, of course.

The Hubbert Oil Peak's dire side effects are directly tied to Americans living and migrating to, in increasing numbers, dangerous environments that can only be sustained artificially. Take LA, for example. If the San Andreas rearranges itself dramatically, and the probability of that happening very soon is quite high, the chances of the various water channels bringing water way over to LA will be breeched should be considered. Everyone in California should have potable water stored and refreshed regularly in 50-100 gallon quantities but you won't hear the government harping on this over and over again, do you? It is all happy talk. In Arizona, it is the same story. My mother always kept a supply of water on hand just in case we have none.

I grew up aware of the fragility of our existence. Tucson, for example, was surrounded by nuclear missile silos. Not to mention top target military bases! So we had to be on hair trigger alert for WWIII since we had exactly one hour to skeddadle out or be annihilated and so my parents lived very near the edge of Mt. Rincon and the Catalinas so we could hike it over Seven Falls and exit stage right if there was an alert.

90% of the populace didn't know about all this and weren't told about this. The government had children practice the duck under the desk routine. My father's instructions (he knew better) were, "If you hear many jets take off from DM really fast, don't wait to ask for permission, leave the classroom and run for home as fast as you can." When Kennedy was assassinated in Texas, this is what happened and this is what I did.

Today, Schwarzenegger, rather than bellowing at teachers and demanding more special elections, should be reviewing the things one needs if there is a great quake. He should have the list: first aide kits, tarps, water, batteries, flashlights, blankets, water, flashlights in cars (how many people were alive but buried in cars the last time? More than one!). Review what to do in a quake. Namely, get under a desk or table pronto or brace oneself in a doorway or move to the middle of the street if possible. All scary stuff. But look at the hurricane warnings!

Many lives have been saved because of these warnings. Better safe than sorry. Thanks to satellite information we can now track and warn about these hurricanes pretty good and the decline in the death toll shows this. But earthquakes are a different beast.

You can seldom call them. But this time around, that isn't true. Since December, the inevitability of the coming series of quakes in California to Alaska are obvious. Therefore, measures should be taken.
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