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article imageOp-Ed: To Heed or Ignore Earthquake Predictions

By Sandy Sand     Apr 8, 2009 in Lifestyle
Italian government officials have taken a ration of criticism for ignoring the dire predictions of a seismologist that an earthquake was imminent, and for not warning and/or evacuating a mountainous region of central Italy where a six-pointer struck.
Before the critics got their briefs up in too much of a bunch, a little critical thinking should have been done.
So Giampaolo Giuliani has been correct in his earthquake predictions a few times, but he’s also been wrong.
Even Dr. Lucy Jones, who has earned a worldwide reputation as a seismologist, working for the U.S.G.S. out of Cal-Tech in Pasadena, California, said the release of radon is no accurate predictor of earthquakes.
Sometimes earthquakes occur after a radon release; sometimes they don’t. In fact, for all the studies, she said seismologists absolutely cannot predict quakes; all they can say is ‘maybe,’ I.e. the recent cluster of quakes we’ve had in the past few weeks in the Salton Sea area at the southern end of the San Andreas fault.
Those quakes have set off alarms of the pending 'big one,' but they can just as easily be taking pressure off the San Andreas as putting it on. No one knows.
In Southern California, we take her word for what she and her fellow seismologist, Dr. Kate Hutton of Cal-Tech say. We’ve been watch them for years and taking their “always be prepared” advice.
Well, some of have anyway.
Those of us who were around for early wake up call of the 6.6, 1971 Sylmar quake that destroyed the V.A. hospital in Sylmar, two freeway interchanges and just about collapsed the Lower Van Norman Dam, remember well seeing Jones on television, holding her infant son in her arms, calming our nerves and telling us exactly what happened and preparing us for aftershocks.
Because of lack of sufficient communication between agencies, they couldn’t even decide whether to evacuate the 40,000 residents who lived below the dam. Evacuation orders were sent out, reversed and put into effect again. The dam was drained to avert a disaster and then its use was discontinued.
The “experts” can’t even agree on whether the Italian quake was a 6.3 or a 5.8; I’ve heard both. They also couldn’t agree if our most recent “big one,” the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge quake was a 6.7 or more than a seven. Rumors flew that it was at least a seven or greater, but the government wanted it to be less, so it wouldn’t have to shell out so much relief money.
Let’s put it this way. If you were here, just five miles from the epicenter, you, too, would swear is was at least a seven. I always figured the ’conspiracy’ thing was nonsense, because it would have been impossible to have a vast conspiracy involving hundreds of seismologist around the world to make it less than it really was.
To evacuate because of the threat of an earthquake is tenuous at best when only a general area is suspected of being affected and there is no time or date-certain of the anticipated event.
And if they could evacuate a huge population, when would they know when it's safe to send everyone home?
Even the tiny hamlet of Parkfield, California, population 18 or 900 depending on whom you ask, has the reputation of being a harbinger of San Andreas activity, with earthquakes at a predictable regularity…until it stopped, and can no longer be relied upon. They’re still waiting their long overdue quake.
Eighteen or 900, Parkfield could be evacuated, but what about the 30- to 40-million population of the great greater Los Angeles area, which extends from Santa Barbara to San Diego, half of whom are illegals and not even next year‘s census, let alone the I.N.S. will catch, leaving everyone in the dark as to how many people actually live here.
Even if it were an absolute, positive, no question about it fact that the San Andreas will fracture on a date and time certain, as it’s been threatening to do for years, what’s a government to do?
Be prepared! That’s what to do.
Take note all you millions of people who live in the New Madrid fault zone.
And if you get the crazy idea to issue a warning of the coming -- it’s a sure thing -- event, you better damn well have the National Guard on hand with loaded guns in tow, if they’re not still wasting their lives and time in Iraq, while you’re giving out the warning, because what will inevitably follow a dire warning is panic and looting in advance of, or concurrent with a mass fleeing of the city by a panicked populace.
Nothing frightens like an earthquake. There’s nothing to shake one’s feeling of security than to have stable, sure-footed ground move under one’s feet.
Prediction miscues are everywhere.
For all their technology, even the U.S. Weather Service does a lousy job of predicting where a hurricane will strike, and they have satellites and sophisticated computers to come up with different scenarios of where and when.
With all of that, half the time they’re wrong, and a hurricane takes a last minute turn and hits an un-evacuated area. We’ve lost track of how many times residents of various Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama cities have evacuated, all for naught.
Likewise, in Los Angeles, the local news has been telling us for days that a ‘major rain storm’ is coming, so we put away all the garden tools, clear leaves and such from the drain covers, walk around and turn off all the auto sprinklers, replace rotted out windshield wipers and generally clean up to have less of a mess to clean up after the rain that never shows up.
What's happening right now is a good example. Early last night the sky spit a few drops of water, and that was the “big” storm. They predict and nothing happens. The opposite occurs, too. They predict a few showers and we’re pounded by mud slide-causing torrential rain.
It’s gotten to the point of “when I see it, I’ll believe it,” so why should I or anyone listen to predictions of an earthquake or anything else?
At this very moment, the sky should be shrouded in dark clouds and vast amounts of water pouring from it. In stead, the sun is shining so brightly through my office window, I just had to draw the drapes to block it out, and the Weather Channel isn’t showing one green blip anywhere in the area.
As for earthquakes, my house was built before all the earthquake building regulations were put into place after the Sylmar quake, yet it was built to meet what few earthquake specifications were in place at the time, and the wood framing is bolted to the concrete foundation.
So far it’s survived two major quakes with suffering no more than minor cracks. I don’t know if it’ll survive a third; only time will tell.
But if someone knew ’fer sur’ that the San Andreas were to rupture and warnings of the impending “big one” were put out, I would not leave.
And living in Southern California, where would one run to by car that would be far enough away to be safe?
Not Las Vegas; they’ll feel the effects, too. Not San Francisco. San Diego couldn’t hold everyone and it’s at the southern end of the San Andreas. Oregon and Washington aren’t safe either, if absolute safety is what you’re looking for.
No, it would be safer to stay here than to battle the maddening crowds trying to escape the city, quaking in my boots and waiting, but I would have fortified the earthquake supplies I’ve had on hand for years and wait…wait…wait.
The truth is, it's never safe to live in an active earthquake zone. Every minute there is a fifty-fifty chance that an earthquake will occur...or it won't.
As for predictions, does anyone really believe that the world as we know it will end on Dec. 21, 2012?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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