Beyond the sunshine, the palm trees and Hollywood, if there is one certainty in California, it’s that a massive earthquake will strike at some point.
But when the Big One hits, a recent report says, the western state is ill-prepared and local officials as well as major businesses need to face that reality to “prevent the inevitable disaster from becoming a catastrophe.”
Drafted by a group of business and policy leaders, the report identifies several key areas that need to be addressed before a quake as strong as a magnitude 8 happens, notably aging infrastructure, water supplies and the risk of catastrophic fires.
One of the biggest vulnerabilities, the report states, relates to the Cajon Pass, a narrow mountain pass where the mighty San Andreas Fault intersects with key lifelines, including freeways, railway lines, gas and petroleum pipelines as well as electric lines.
A major earthquake on the San Andreas, one of California’s most dangerous faults, would cut most lifelines in and out of southern California, preventing critical aid from reaching some 20 million people and hampering recovery efforts, experts say.
The quake would also rupture flammable pipelines, triggering explosions and fires that could burn out of control.