22 03 2008

from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The next major earthquake on the Hayward Fault – inevitable anytime now, experts say – will be the Bay Area’s own Hurricane Katrina, affecting more than 5 million people, causing losses to homes and businesses of at least $165 billion and total economic losses of more than $1.5 trillion, scientists warn.And that’s from ground shaking alone. If major fires break out – think 1906 in San Francisco – the total losses would be far higher, they said.

The staggering numbers come from new predictions of losses resulting from a magnitude 7 temblor on the fault, in which ground shaking could spread from the quake’s epicenter directly on the fault to communities as far off as Santa Rosa and San Jose – or beyond.

Seismologists and quake loss experts joined Thursday to report the latest assessment of what scientists call “the single-most dangerous fault in the entire Bay Area.”

The analysis came from the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, from Risk Management Solutions, a scientific and engineering firm in Newark, and from the Association of Bay Area Governments. Their view of the past and future was sobering.

Records and geologic trenching show that five major quakes struck along the Hayward Fault between 1315 and 1868 – an average of one every 140 years. The 140th anniversary of the last big one falls on Oct. 21.

The Hayward fault runs up the east side of the bay, right through the middle of what has become a major urban area.  Even fewer structures in this area are insured against damage than were insured on the Gulf Coast when Katrina hit…and those who were insured know what that, all too often, was worth.  California ain’t likely to fall into the ocean from this one, but a lot of residents may wish it had….

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