Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Big One

Major Quake Could Be Worse Than Katrina

Asteroid Strike Almost Certainly Will Be.

Geeze, I wish is that these stories would provide a little context. A category 4 or 5 hurricane strike (Katrina was a category 4) was inevitable, but the odds of it landing in any particular year were judged to be 0.5%. That’s why there wasn’t a Manhattan-Project-type flurry of levee and seawall construction during the last, oh 50 years. That's why people continued to live in a city below sea level. They were on a roll, playing the long odds.

That's why people live in Los Angeles.

If you roll the dice for long enough, you'll crap out.

I have heard a lot in the last week or so about how residents of the Gulf coast would refer to the coming “Big One,” the storm that would descend like the wrath of God and scour the land. Lot of evacuees from New Orleans talked about the fatalism that was common in the city concerning its eventual destruction.

All these remarks have an eerie similarity to the talk I grew up with in Southern California concerning the “Big One,” the earthquake that would destroy the “50 suburbs in search of a city” that is Los Angeles. As a kid I did the duck and cover drills not only for the Bomb, but also for the Quake. Our boogeyman was the San Andreas Fault and it was there and we knew that it could kill us.

(Nowdays I worry about the Juan de Fuca plate. According to some Canadian Scientists, the Pacific Northwest's Big One could happen anytime now. Which of course just adds to my list of worries...)

For all the hand-wringing and chin-pulling over the events occuring in New Orleans in the last month, (and the number is depressing) the death toll is hovering around 1000. With days to prepare, hundreds of thousands left the New Orleans in time. If the "Big One" hits Los Angeles, there will be no warning.

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