Natural disasters have caused over $6 billion dollars in the US, just in the first six months of 2018. Several states were damaged by severe storms, Hawaii has been challenged with volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and floods and California has experienced some of the most devastating fires this year. With September being National Preparedness Month, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and government agencies are taking this month to remind communities to have a plan in place if a natural disaster strikes.
California not only has threats of wildfires, but has historic notoriety of earthquakes both large and small. To welcome National Preparedness Month this year, on September 1, the bay area experienced a small earthquake. NBCBayarea.com reported the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed a magnitude 3.3 earthquake hit the bay area. Since 1979, the Bay area has experienced six earthquakes with magnitudes from 5.1 to 7.1 and according to the US Geological Survey, California has a 99% chance of having a 6.7 magnitude or greater earthquake in the next 30 years with a 62% probability in the Bay area.
Kevin Smith, an emergency management specialist with PG&E, says families need to be prepared, have a plan and know what to do during in an emergency because “in California, these disasters can happen anywhere, anytime.”
35 years ago, in 1983, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck Coalinga which injured 94 people and caused millions of dollars in property damage. The epicenter was 7.5 miles northeast of Coalinga, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It struck at 4:42 p.m. on May 2, 1983, and was felt from Los Angeles through Sacramento, and from the coast all the way to Las Vegas.
The Coalinga quake, which occurred on a previously unknown fault, resulted in $10 million dollars in damages, which is equivalent to about $25 million today. According to the American Red Cross, of the nearly 2,000 houses, apartments and mobile homes damaged by the quake, 342 were virtually destroyed and 691 more had major damage.
“I cannot emphasize enough on how important it is to be prepared for emergencies,” said smith, “so we need to make sure that we are ready, whenever the next disaster hits.”
The greater southern Central Valley region—Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare counties—is surrounded by faults, including the Garlock fault to the south, the faults of the Sierra Nevada to the east, and the dangerous San Andreas fault system to the west. A 2017 study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that a portion of the San Andreas fault, near the Tejon Pass could be overdue for a major earthquake. Earthquakes there happen about every 100 years, on average, with the last one—the Fort Tejon 7.9 magnitude quake—occurring in 1857, when there was almost no development in the area.
In an interview with CBM, Smith shared how to help prepare for disasters and expressed it is essential to know what natural disasters can occur in your community and surrounding areas. Have a plan in place to contact family members, sign up to receive emergency alerts and warnings, know the evacuation route and be aware of and report downed power lines.
While no one can predict when or where the next earthquake will hit, “Practice emergency plans, so that young ones can become familiar,” says Smith. “You need to reinforce that and make it a habit to practice emergency drills, so when [emergencies] happen you are prepared.”