Editor’s Note: Jeff Yang contributes frequently to . Opinion, is a special writer for Quartz and other publications, and co-hosts the “They Call Us Bruce” podcast. He co-wrote Jackie Chan’s bestselling autobiography, “I Am Jackie Chan,” and is the editor of three graphic novels: “Secret Identities,” “Shattered” and the upcoming “New Frontiers.” The opinions expressed in the article are the author’s own.
(.) – “They say you never forget your first time,” a friend texted me shortly after Saturday’s Ridgecrest earthquake, which hit 7.1 on the Richter scale, clearly falling under the category of ” major earthquake ». I’ve been living in Los Angeles for half a decade; This was the first significant tremor I have ever experienced and, going back to what my friend was saying, the feeling was terrifying and strange.
We were camping in the mountains, on the edge of Lake Piru in Ventura County, about 240 kilometers from the epicenter. My 11 year old son and I were brushing our teeth when the earthquake struck. The doors to the bathroom cubicles began to rock from side to side. Water splashed in the pools. The floor felt unstable, like rubber, like a boat shaking during a storm. When we ran outside, the cars swayed back and forth on their wheels and the trees swayed without a breeze.
My son clung to my waist and closed his eyes tight. “Tell me when I’m done!” He yelled. As soon as he said it, the shaking stopped.
LOOK: How serious was the earthquake in California?
Nothing had been damaged, nothing had even fallen. But when we glanced over the field, packed with people crowding nervously among the tents, there were signs of things that could have gone catastrophically wrong if the earthquake had been closer: an electric wire was running over our tents and It was tied to a pole on an elevation just behind where we camped. A motorhome on the edge of a hill could have fallen. We were in an open area miles from a city, but a nearby major earthquake could have caused chaos.
Fortunately, there were no deaths from the Ridgecrest quake and only a handful of minor injuries; the sparsely inhabited area around the epicenter suffered power outages and the breakdown of some main gas lines, but the main infrastructure was not disrupted. There was a huge contrast to the damage caused by the Northbridge earthquake in 1994: 6.7 on the Richter scale, 40% in size and a quarter of the power of this weekend, but centered only a few 50 kilometers from the largest urban center in Los Angeles. This quake killed at least 57 people and injured more than 8,700, of whom 1,600 required hospitalization; in turn caused $ 20 billion in damage and $ 49 billion in economic loss, making it one of the most costly natural disasters in US history.
It’s scary to think what a “Big” would really be like, centered in an urban megalopolis like Los Angeles. In 2008, the US Geological Society released a report called “The ShakeOut Scenario” (somewhat like “The Shaking Scenario”), which estimates the impact of a 7.8 magnitude tremor in the south from the San Andrés fault, which runs through Los Angeles and runs through San Bernardino County, the fifth largest county in California, and Palmdale, the 33rd largest city in population in California.
The devastation estimate, according to the report, includes several thousand deaths, 50,000 or more injured requiring emergency care, some $ 213 billion in economic losses, impassable roads and highways, and at least 1,600 fires, of which 1,200 will be too large to be contained by a single fire truck company. (There are only about 1,200 fire stations in all of Southern California.)
The lead author of the report, Dr. Lucile Jones, noted on NPR that “[El terremoto de Northbridge] It was an event that greatly altered the lives of people in the San Fernando Valley … for one or two years. The great earthquake in San Andrés will alter the lives of everyone in southern California and it could take decades to recover what was lost. ”
He did not say he “could alter,” he said he “will alter.” Because the Great Earthquake is inevitable, and most likely will occur during our lives. According to the U.S. Geological Society, there is a 50 percent chance that an earthquake of magnitude greater than 7 will occur in the Los Angeles area in the next 30 years, and a 31 percent chance that one will occur. of magnitude greater than 7.5.
But at least we can have a warning just before it arrives.
Los Angeles now has an alert feature designed to warn you about 30 to 60 seconds before a major tremor, built into an app called ShakeAlertLA. The system uses data from a sensor network managed by the US Geological Society on the west coast.
Unfortunately, this system has been singled out by President Trump as a target to eliminate: in the last two budget proposals it has zeroed out funds for the early warning system of the US Geological Society. The savings in the cut: just $ 10.2 million. The elimination of the seismic risk program was explained as a redirection of funds to “cover higher priorities”.
What higher priority could there be than preventing thousands of deaths and up to 250 trillion in financial losses in the country’s most populous state, a state that regularly votes for Democrats in presidential elections?
Well, ironically, this weekend of July 4th, as Ridgecrest was experiencing a magnitude 6.7 ‘premonitor’ preceding the 7.1 out of five quake, Donald Trump was self-celebrating on the National Esplanade, with a grotesquely narcissistic display. of military parades that cost millions.
While the White House declined to provide an estimate of the total, The Washington Post revealed that the Department of the Interior – which controls the agency of the US Geological Society – would invest more than $ 3 million of its budget for the “Concerts on Capitol Hill” during the event, while siphoning off another $ 2.5 million from the National Park Service to add to the pool.
The costs of Trump’s overflights and tank exhibits have been estimated as “well over a million” for the Department of Defense. Add in the costs of security and crowd management, cleanup, fire safety from fireworks, and we’re close to the $ 10.2 million that Trump continues to cut fiercely from maintaining our early earthquake warning system.
It seems that Trump is very clear on what his “highest priorities” are.
Californians are resilient. My friend Andrew says he was watching a movie on the west side of Los Angeles when the city was rocked. “Half the movie theater ran away,” he laughs. “Only native Californians stayed.” But when the Great Earthquake hits, the cost to California, the most populous and economically important state in the United States, will be astronomical, in lives and in dollars. And the only way to lessen the disaster is to invest in science, infrastructure, and basic preparedness. As Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told NPR, “We are better prepared for the big one, better than any big city in America, which means we are painfully underprepared.”
Someone should tell the chief deal maker that a few million to save billions is a very good deal.
– (Translation by Mariana Campos)