It’s interesting to see what’s on people’s minds as potential catastrophes develop.
Google’s top search on Oct. 29 as Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast were for the “Weather Channel,” with more than half-a-million such searches recorded by midday Pacific time.
The day before Sandy was again one of the biggest trends, with 500,000-plus searches, thanks to headlines like “Hurricane Sandy barrels toward Northeast,” “Get out before you can’t,” and “Hurricane Sandy Damage: ‘Frakenstorm’ Pummels East Coast.” Professional football and Daylight Savings were other top searches over that weekend before the storm began bearing down.
A day before that, “earthquake” and “tsunami” were among the top subjects, with more than 500,000 searches no doubt generated by the 7.7 magnitude earthquake off of the west coast of Canada that prompted tsunami warnings on the island of Hawaii, which fortunately turned out to be much smaller than first feared.
Among the items trending on CNN.com the day Sandy approached the East Coast was a poll that asked “Are you prepared for a weather emergency?” By one point in the day just as the hurricane bore down on Eastern U.S. citizens, nearly 60 percent who had taken the poll answered “yes.”
The poll is non-scientific, but it’s still hard to swallow if you know any of the folks I know, few of whom have flashlights they can easily locate, or excess water supplies, or canned food. Most of them don’t even have batteries for their flashlights, they certainly haven’t gone as far as having evacuation routes mapped out, nor are they likely to have any plans for what to do during an emergency. Hopefully it’s the CNN.com poll that’s accurate, and my non-scientific assessment that’s not.
If any encouragement is to be had, it’s from the Great ShakeOut earthquake drills this year on Oct. 18 at 10:18 a.m., which drew more than 15 million participants around the world – a record 9.4 million in California alone, according to organizers of the annual event.
A day prior to the ShakeOut U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones spent a portion of her morning at the Los Angeles Risk and Insurance Management Society’s forum in North Hollywood, Calif. talking about the possibility of the “big one” striking Southern California. For full coverage, see “‘Big One’ Looms in Minds of Experts Before California ShakeOut” on page 24.
Jones described a grim scenario following a large earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, which she said “is the most likely catastrophic disaster to hit the United States at this point.”
She laid out the toll of such a quake:
More than 100 landslides, 150,000-plus people displaced, in excess of 53,000 emergency room visits, more than 1,800 deaths and 1,600 or more fires.