The Big One

Is Los Angeles ready for it? Probably not. There’s still a lot we don’t know about how structures will survive in such an event.

I found this interesting, from the perspective of my book:

Structural engineers point out that no building will ever be 100 percent safe.

We don’t know what’s going to happen to the ARCO Towers, or any of the other steel moment-frame buildings across Southern California. They could be OK when the Big One hits.

Or maybe the ground motion, soil composition and brittle welds will cause some of them to collapse or partially collapse.

How much of a risk, as a society, are we willing to take? And once we determine that a type of building could be dangerous in an earthquake, when do we act?

I posed this question to Bonowitz, the structural engineer who didn’t think a mandatory retrofit program for WSMF buildings is necessary.

“It’s a little bit crass, but suppose I told you that 99.9 percent of anyone in greater Los Angeles is going to survive the big earthquake. Is that acceptable to you?” he asked.

I told him I thought we should probably try to do everything that we can to save every life.

Bonowitz pushed back.

“I think to posit a large earthquake in an urban environment like Los Angeles and say it’s unacceptable if anybody dies in that earthquake, I think that’s unreasonable,” he said. “Especially if you have limited public money to put toward reducing the losses.”

Yes, we have to make a rational assessment. It’s the price of having a major metroplex in an earthquake zone.

15 thoughts on “The Big One”

  1. Another risk that they most likely haven’t considered are the tsunami from underwater land slides triggered by any major earthquake. In the 1812 Santa Barbara quake they reached up to a 1/2 mile inland.

    1. I think LA should move into ocean.
      One has vast amount of land as the continental shelf.
      So you make the building structure to withstand hurricanes, and a tsunami. And earthquakes are not going to be problem.
      You travel in underwater tubes [like a subway or fast train].
      It’s like Venice but in deeper water. And designed from beginning rather than a long term coping process.

  2. The best we can hope for is no “megadeath” casualty numbers and enough infrastructure to save the survivors if The Big One™ hits. Anything beyond that is a blessing.

  3. I don’t see why they don’t make everyone in Southern California wear a bicycle helmet 24 hours a day. It would certainly save lives, not just in earthquakes but in all sorts of situations. It would cost virtually nothing and it wouldn’t cause any inconvenience. Not even their porn industry could come up with a reason to oppose it.

    You do hit trade offs if you made all Californians wear full Navy firefighting gear at all times. That would certainly save lives during the frequent wildfires caused by failed land management policies and an inability to maintain a first-world electrical grid, but those would have to be balanced against the excess deaths from heatstroke. Plus, people would get really bored with firefighter porn.

    But California could certainly do much more to make their geology and terrain safer during Earthquakes. Here in Appalachia we face only a relatively small risk from an overdue New Madrid quake, but we’re still taking the tops off most of our mountains to reduce the risk of landslides, despite the trouble and expense of it. If we lived in California, you’d be able to walk to the top of Yosemite because that is one dangerous angle for a slope, even a granite one.

    But I do think California is headed in the right direction with policies designed to get everyone sleeping outside in tents, and equipping them with painkillers so they can get through even severe injuries during a crisis when the hospitals might be overflowing with idiots who slept indoors near mountain ranges, while eschewing bicycle helmets and firefighting gear as proper sleepwear.

      1. True. I always have to check the URL to see if an article about California is from the LA Times, the SF Chron, or the Babylon Bee, because you can’t tell from the headline or the body of the story.

  4. I was born in California, and grew up there, and I still don’t understand why California does not take earthquakes seriously. Earthquake building codes and preparedness are not the answer; the threat itself must be addressed.

    California needs to address earthquakes the same way it has addressed climate change. Taxes and fees are the answer, just as with carbon. And they will be 100% as effective on stopping earthquakes as they are on stopping climate change.

    Act now, end the threat! Do it for the children.

    1. The problem is all the stress on the plates. It will take more than simple taxes and fees, it will take massive amounts of stress-relieving weed dumped directly into the faults and set on fire.

  5. Well, look at it this way: The Big One is a good alternative to the SMOD hitting southern California. Better targeted on illegals and lefties with less collateral damage.

  6. I would have thought that the picture of the slab of highway that collapsed down onto the slab below it would be chilling enough to make everyone serious about quakes since anyone of them could have been on that lower highway.

    Guess not.

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