Get Ready to Rumble


On Wednesday, May 4, seismologist Thomas H. Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, warned attendees of the National Earthquake Conference in Long Beach that the San Andreas fault is an immediate danger to California.

Though some may only know it from the title of a 2015 blockbuster disaster movie, the San Andreas fault is California’s longest fault and one of its most dangerous. In its most recent rumble, in 1857, the San Andreas fault delivered a devastating 7.9 earthquake to Southern California, ripping apart 185 miles of land. That was the last big one. Since then the beast has not stirred, but its prolonged slumber threatens us with an impending “bigger one:” when the tension of a century and a half is released in a few dreadfully long minutes.

Aerial view of the San Andeas fault
Aerial view of the San Andreas fault

“The springs on the San Andreas System have been wound very, very tight,” warned Jordan in a keynote speech. “And the southern San Andreas fault, in particular, looks like it’s locked, loaded, and ready to go.”

When the trigger is pulled, California will be forced to take on the full force of an 8.0 earthquake. An earthquake of that magnitude would cause over 1,800 deaths, 50,000 injuries, and $200 billion in damage in Los Angeles alone. Piled on top of that, the sewer system of Los Angeles, of nearly 4 million Americans, would be out of order for six months.

Therefore, it is paramount that Los Angeles, and the entirety of Southern California, takes the proper measures to ensure that safety prevails over disaster in the coming years. Steps have already been taken in Los Angeles, with plans to require earthquake retrofits on concrete buildings, made into law under Mayor Eric Garcetti. Other preparations have also begun, such as strengthening the city’s aqueduct systems and its telecommunications networks.

“It’s remarkable that this happened,” commented Jordan. “We know politically how difficult it is to make these kinds of changes.”

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