Scientists try to forecast where big quakes might hit
October 14, 1999
From Correspondent Don Knapp
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- The earthquake that ripped through the San Francisco Bay area 10 years ago was devastating, killing 63 people and causing $6 billion to $10 billion in damage.
But the quake was not a surprise. Ever since the Great Earthquake of 1906, Bay Area residents have come to live with the reality that quakes happen. The uncertainty has been where and when.
Now, a group of 100 federal, state and university scientists are working to determined the odds on where, when and how bad the next earthquakes might be.
"The probability of a large and damaging earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area in the next 30 years is 70 percent, and that has an uncertainty of plus or minus 10 percent," says David Schwartz of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Some of the new information that is helping scientists with their forecasting is coming from old faults.
"It comes from the trenches we put across the faults to look at the time of past earthquakes," Schwartz says. "It comes from satellite-based measurements ... that tell us how fast the plates are moving."
Measurements of how much and how often faults are creeping have confirmed what scientists have suspected.
"As we look across the region, we have earthquake activity distributed throughout the entire bay area," Schwartz says. "There's really no escape."
While there may be no escape, those who will survive the next "big one" are those who are prepared. Researchers hope the new earthquake projections will shock Californians into getting ready.
"California is not going to drop into the ocean," says Jeanne Perkins of the Association of Bay Area Governments.
"You are going to be around, and you're going to be struggling with housing and transportation and some of these other issues. So you might as well plan now to deal with those."
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