Scientists Predict $200B in Damage From Southern California Earthquake

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the California Geological Survey (CGS) are predicting a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Southern California — similar to the recent earthquake in China — would kill 1,800 people, injure 50,000, cause $200 billion in damage, and have long-lasting social and economic consequences. Scientists said an earthquake of that magnitude would cause loss of lives and massive damage to infrastructure, including critical transportation, power and water systems.

Although imaginary, the “Shakeout Scenario” is based on USGS’ and CGS’ best predictions of what would occur during and after a major earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. Among their predictions:

The Shakeout forecast is being used for what will be the largest earthquake preparedness drill in California history, scheduled for Nov. 13, 2008. Scientists said despite their predictions, most of the damage is predictable and much is preventable. Scientists suggest individuals protect themselves and help communities by storing water, keeping a fire extinguisher and knowing how to use it, and securing building contents from flying around and reinforcing a building they own to the most current standards.

The November preparedness exercise, “Golden Guardian ’08,”; will test the ability of emergency responders to deal with the impact of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault in Southern California, and is being jointly organized by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the California Office of Homeland Security. A June 4 kick-off event is planned for the “ShakeOut” to help communities plan to respond to the risks highlighted in the scenario.

“The planned emergency drill is underpinned by the most comprehensive analysis ever of what a major Southern California earthquake would mean on the ground,” said Dr. Lucile Jones, chief scientist for U.S. Geological Survey’s Southern California Multi-Hazards Demonstration Project. “We know this science will help state and local agencies develop comprehensive emergency-response plans that will help us avoid the worst impacts of a major quake.”

The ShakeOut Scenario is the product of an interdisciplinary collaboration of more than 300 scientists, engineers, and other experts from several agencies, including the USGS, the California Geological Survey, Southern California Earthquake Center, California Office of Emergency Services and Seismic Safety Commission.

For a copy of the full report, visit http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2008/1150.