Saturday, March 1, 2008

About The San Andreas Fault

Everyone living in California dreads The Big One -- the earthquake that is supposed to wreak havoc and turn us into an island.
We went to an excellent presentation at the local library by astro-physicist and geologist David K. Lynch on the San Andreas fault. You know, the one that is supposed to send California floating into the Pacific when it really breaks? Turns out it's all myth. Sure, Southern California is long due for the Big One, but the lateral sliding between the North America plate and the Pacific plates is such that, even if the Big One destroys most of our infrastructure, we will still be attached to the U.S. of A.

Another myth is that, so long as you're not on the fault, you're safe. No: you just need to be in the zone to be affected, and "zone" is a freakishly fuzzy concept that extends to unquantifiable miles. Also, the San Andreas fault is only one of many. The 1994 Northridge earthquake, remembered deep down by many Angelenos, and especially by Santa Monicans, was due to unknown sub-surface fault, and there may be others, thus adding to the uncertainty -- and collective angst.

Lynch compiled a comprehensive field guide to the San Andreas fault, with descriptions, factoïds and maps. Call it serendipity: coming back from the talk, we stopped at our arabe du coin (who is actually Korean) and noticed the above sign for the first time. Translation: if the ground shakes, get the hell out!
photo LA Frog