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Quakes, hurricanes & more: Nature will always win
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The Tracy-Stockton Fault.
The Corral Hollow Fault
The San Joaquin Fault.
The three are the known faults in San Joaquin County.
They are not as menacing as the faults that go by the names of San Andreas, Calaveras and Hayward that semiologists say are way over due for a large earthquake.
Monday’s 7.1 Richter scale quake in Mexico City that killed at least 270 people triggered the usual media obsession with “The Big One” bringing California to its knees.
If you’re worrying when the next quake is going to hit California you might want to head to Costco and buy a pallet of sedatives. The United States Geological Survey on Wednesday reported recording 18 California earthquakes in the previous 24 hours, 164 earthquakes in the previous seven days, 692 earthquakes in the previous 30 days, and 8.246 earthquakes in the past 365 days. The vast majority aren’t felt by people due to their low intensity.
If that doesn’t unnerve you, consider this: California has eight active volcanoes including three within 160 miles of Manteca straddling Highway 120 east of Highway 395. The Mono Craters volcanic lava domes last erupted 230 years ago. The Inyo Craters volcanic lava domes last erupted 700 years ago. And the mother of all volcanoes — the 20-mile long and 11-mile wide Long Valley Caldera that is among the largest calderas in the world — had a super eruption 760,000 years ago and an eruption on its ring, 100,000 years ago. Scientists say the Long Valley Caldera is capable of another super eruption that will be 1,000 times more powerful than the Mt. St. Helen’s 1980 eruption.
The Golden State is young geologically speaking and sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire. California is earthquake country as well as having the highest number of active volcanoes in the continental United States.
Which brings us to the social media outrage du jour: We deserve what we are getting from nature because of where we build cities. Hurricane Harvey wasn’t through doing its number on Houston when posts started popping up implying Houston got what it deserved due to sprawl fed by carbon based industries. Hurricane Irma triggered an onslaught bashing development in Florida. The Mexico City quake generated comments that Los Angeles and San Francisco one day will get what they deserve for building in an earthquake zone.
It’s time for a reality check.
Man isn’t trying to defy nature, per se. He’s just trying to live. Only a denier of reality would think otherwise. Nature holds all the cards. We’re just trying to figure how to stay in the game with the losing hand we have.
Do you see cities built 2,000 years ago still standing? It’s not that they were built in the wrong place. There is no right place to build to assure we can escape nature’s fury.
Why do civilizations build cities on coasts, along rivers in floodplains, or in fertile valleys? It’s because they are close to what they need: Food, water, and the ability to move goods by boat.
Where can man build cities so that he’s not dancing with fate and encroaching on nature? Some may suggest the desert but unless you import water and throw another area out of synch you will soon overwhelm a fragile eco-system. Some may say the hills but then it sets the stage for mudslides, massive wildfires, and more. Build in valleys any you eat up farmland. Cities along coasts have always had rising sea levels to worry about. If you wanted to go to the beach 20,000 years ago in San Francisco you would have had to walk 20 miles east of the Great Highway to near the Farallon Islands Global warning ended the last ice age allowing the sea to eventually reach what is today Ocean Beach.
There is no place on earth where you can build that isn’t eventually subject to a natural disaster from drought to flood and everything in between.
The Great Flood of 1861-1862 that covered almost all of the Great Central Valley made Hurricane Harvey miniscule in comparison. The reason why losses — as defined by man as opposed to nature that uses such events to shape the landscape — weren’t in the same ballpark is the number of people involved. There were only 20,000 or so as valley residents living on 225,000 square miles in 1862 as opposed to 5.6 million in Houston today on 667 square miles.
It doesn’t require a $1 million federal research grant to come to the safe conclusion that more buildings and more people means more destruction when nature lets lose.
We can minimize losses but we can’t eliminate them.
And typically the more we try to minimize losses in advance from natural disasters in terms of development escalates the expenditure of limited resources.
Do we prohibit building within a set miles of earthquake faults that are as numerous in California as the veins in your body?
The last quakes originating beneath San Joaquin County soil that were strong enough to be felt were in 1881 and 1940. Both were near Linden. Experts say the San Joaquin fault running for 18 miles along the base of the Coastal Mountains may have a potential for a quake in the 6.3 to 6.7 Richter scale range.
The folly isn’t building where there are earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides and such but assuming somehow we can escape nature’s fury any place on Earth even when it comes to byproducts of weather such as mega-wildfires or rising or dropping sea levels.
Nature always wins.