Stories

California's big quake is "definite"

Reed Saxon / AP

A startling headline in the L.A. Times: "The Big One is going to happen, no matter how much you want to deny it, California scientists say." Rong-Gong Lin II, who has earthquakes as part of his beat, writes:

"Seismologist Lucy Jones ... said the way experts like her used to talk about earthquakes wasn't very effective. They tended to focus on the probability of a major earthquake striking in the next 30 years ... Now she is making a dramatically different point, emphasizing that a devastating earthquake will definitely happen, and that there is much the public can do to protect themselves."

  • What's coming: "[N]ext year, scientists and the U.S. Geological Survey are expected to unveil the first limited public phase of an earthquake early warning system that would eventually offer seconds and perhaps more than a minute of warning through smartphones and computers. The system has been planned for years but still could be derailed by budget cuts proposed by President Trump."
  • Failure of imagination: "Jones recalled a ... trip to a devastated area of Japan washed away by a tsunami after the magnitude 9 earthquake off the nation's east coast in 2011. Communities there endured a death toll as high as 10% of the population."
  • "She remembered being taken to Otsuchi, where the city hall sat behind a 20-foot sea wall. Experts had forecast a 16-foot tsunami from the quake. 'The city leaders ignored protocol that said to move to higher ground and conducted their emergency meeting in the city hall. When the tsunami poured over the sea wall, they lost over 1,000 people, including most of their city government.'"