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Mar 31 / Dave Schumaker

America’s Most Dangerous Fault

I was going through some old emails from last week and found a press release from the USGS about America’s most dangerous fault; the Hayward fault.

According to a recent study by the USGS and Risk Management Solutions, a M6.8 earthquake on the Hayward Fault could produce upwards of $165 billion dollars, even more expensive than damage and economic losses from Hurricane Katrina.

Offset Curb
A sidewalk and curb in Hayward, California offset by aseismic slip along the Hayward Fault.
Image Credit: Dave Schumaker

In marked contrast to Hurricane Katrina where uninsured losses were approximately 60 to 70 percent of total economic losses, more than 95 percent of projected Hayward Fault earthquake residential losses and 85 percent of commercial losses will be uninsured.

“Bay Area residents, businesses and local governments need to take action now to reduce future losses. The public understands this and has repeatedly supported bond measures for well-planned seismic upgrade projects, such as the ongoing retrofit of BART and the Hetch Hetchy system,” said Mary Lou Zoback, earthquake expert from RMS.

“Public and private organizations have already invested over $30 billion to retrofit or replace vulnerable buildings and infrastructure, but more needs to be done,” said Tom Brocher, seismologist with the USGS. Until the Bay Bridge and BART undergo major retrofits, they remain vulnerable to earthquakes and more than 180,000 daily commuters who currently use them could face having to take overtaxed alternate routes for months. Similarly, until the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct system upgrade is complete, earthquake-related activity could cut off water for 2.4 million Bay Area residents, according to a recent report by the Bay Area Economic Forum.

As someone who actively chooses to live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area, this thought is a daily occurrence as I walk through the streets of San Francisco. There is definitely a lot that needs to be done to mitigate potential damage. One of the first that comes to mind is that San Francisco should get off its butt and change it’s fire hydrant connections to the statewide standard. Ridiculous.

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