We discuss the latest news on Sunday’s early-morning 6.0 magnitude earthquake, epicentered at the southern edge of Napa. It was the strongest to strike the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta quake of 1989. We’ll also discuss what residents can do to prepare for an earthquake and keep safe.

Richard Allen, professor of seismology at UC Berkeley
Jeanne Hardebeck, seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Craig Miller, science editor for KQED
Mark Ghilarducci, secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency

  • Livegreen

    Meanwhile the U.S. is waiting for Russia to invade Ukraine before it takes any action at all, if any (with signs that an invasion already started and Russian troops are already on the ground). At that point the consequences will be much worse than if the U.S. had firmly told Russia our air force will become involved.

    Whether it’s ISIL or the Ukraine, there has GOT to be something in between Republicans invading countries and Democrats doing nothing. This yo-yo of opposite extremes plays well to the base of both our political parties, but lacks none of the subtleties of reality -or- representation of our moderate and independent electorates.

    Both our political parties are forcing the U.S. to become either reactive or inconsequential. Neither is good for our country OR the world.

    • Guest

      The USA has sponsored the current neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine and their coup. The US media have barely mentioned that Blackwater has sent its mercenaries in to back up that regime. Considering that Ukraine used to be a part of Russia and everyone there speaks Russian, the meddling of our country in Ukraine’s affairs is what’s wrong, not Russia’s reaction to it. Imagine if Mexico sponsored an overthrow of Arizona by crazy Mexican right-wingers or drug cartels. Same difference.

    • Sean Dennehy

      Uh…what does this have to do with Earthquakes?

      • rhuberry

        Topic was changed to earthquakes yesterday. These comments relate to previously-scheduled topic.

        • Sean Dennehy

          Oh, my bad.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    As a native Californian I grew up being taught to be prepared for earthquakes, wildfires and the like, but am curious what percentage of Californians are prepared for earthquakes? Like something as simple as having a wrench to turn off the natural gas meter. To things more serious like food, water, a tent to sleep in for a week if help is not available.

  • Sean Dennehy

    I’m one of those who doesn’t feel Earthquakes and who always sleeps through them. I woke up for this one and I live in San Mateo, not that close to Napa. A testament to how powerful this one was.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    Best Wishes to all affected.

    My husband and i drove up from the east bay Saturday afternoon to the downtown Napa house where my mom lives with my brother. The three of us kids (all in our 50’s) took mom out for a drink and dinner in celebration of her August 24 birthday (delivered at 3:13am, no less). My cousin took my mom to task for an outsized ‘birthquake’ celebration! Fortunately mom had a few broken items but no structural damage, very lucky plus house bolted to foundation.

    I was really struck by the timing of this quake – twelve hours earlier the streets of downtown Napa were filled with people at the Brews and Blues festival; if the quake had happened then it would have been flat out carnage. I suppose the god of quakes is much more kindly disposed towards drunken revelry than any of us knew!

    Again, another reminder to prepare as we can. Stay safe and hang in there Napa, at least mom’s wine cellar came through unscathed, steph

    • thucy

      Glad there was minimal impact on your family, Steph!

      As we prepare for earthquakes, let’s go beyond candles and bottled water: Every Californian should have a baseline of physical fitness in order to reduce impact on public services such as healthcare, etc.

      • Mrs. Eccentric

        Thank you thucy.

        Well, of course fitness should be a priority generally. It would be benficial if the larger community were planned so as to encourage fitness and discourage such things as particle pollution which increases levels of asthma and heart problems.

        In addition, many people (like me) depend on prescription meds in order to function well. Authorities, including insurance companies, encourage people to stockpile up to 30 days supplies in advance for emergencies, but offer no financial help for people to do so. It’s not unusual for the costs to be many hundreds if not thousands of dollars, which for most of us makes this very sensible precaution unattainable.

        Individual preparation is necessary, but if we worked together as a community we could accomplish much more. After all, we’re going to be hit as a community by the big one. steph

  • erictremont

    I would like to know how many California counties now require homeowners to install automatic gas shut-off valves that are activated during major earthquakes, and whether Napa County requires such valves.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      That is a great question!!!!

  • Ehkzu

    Now is the time to pressure your city government to take San Francisco’s lead and mandate seismic retrofits for buildings built before the early 1990s.

    Especially since this quake was on a minor fault, and so was “only” 6.0. A major fault, like the San Andreas or the Hayward Fault, could easily throw a 6.9 magnitude quake–and that’s 30 times stronger.

    Seismic retrofits are especially important for apartment houses and condos built over garages, called “soft story buildings.” Those are what collapsed in San Francisco’s Marina district in the Loma Prieta quake, despite being so far from the epicenter (that plus the fact that they were built on fill).

    Condo and apartment retrofits cost roughly $10,000 per unit–half the cost of a modest new car. It can make the difference between a building collapsing around you vs. it being red tagged, or yellow tagged vs. being red tagged, or not damaged vs. being damaged. In a 6.9 quake, it could mean the difference between your child living or dying–and you living with that fact for the rest of your life if you didn’t get the retrofit.

    The problem is that in cities that impose “affordable housing” mandates on condo complexes, 15% or more of the units must be sold to low income buyers. Yet those cities give such owners no help in paying that $10,000 hit for a retrofit.

    And low income buyers are most likely to not understand statistical probability (that’s why casinos make most of their profits off this demographic). So they’re likely to just see it as “the Man” trying to stick it to them.

    So it’s nearly impossible to get the 2/3 vote needed to approve the special assessment required for a seismic retrofit–and it’s the city’s fault for neither mandating the retrofit nor helping BMR (“Below Market Rate”) owners pay for it. They could do so by putting a lien on the unit, then getting the loan back when the unit is sold.

    My town–Palo Alto–is just such a city, and our condo complex had its retrofit defeated by just such a vote. Our complex is about 10% emigrants from former Soviet block countries, and they campaigned especially hard against the retrofit, because they grew up believing that government only existed to rip you off (true where they grew up). So they assumed the members of our board were lying about the need for a retrofit, and were getting kickbacks from the engineering firm.

    Seismic retrofits include fastening buildings to their foundations (ours had the bolts but the sloppy builders hadn’t actually put many into the cement foundation), bracing cripple walls with plywood sheeting (that’s the space between the bottom of your building and the ground), and buttressing the side of the building where the garages open onto the roadway (with or without garage doors, which are seismically irrelevant).

    It’s easy to put this off. Earthquakes are not seasonal, and our minds have trouble dealng with rare, irregular, but really dangerous events. But when an earthquake like the Napa quake occurs, with the images fresh in everyone’s mind. that’s the time to get on the case of your city’s government.

    • Livegreen

      Good comments. It’s amazing that Palo Alto would not have a mandatory retrofit when other cities like San Francisco and Oakland do.

      The fill comment is important b/c, beyond liquifaction, the fill in some places (like the Marina) includes old submerged wooden vessels that can open up, exaggerating the displacement of the sands & fill around them.

      It is my understanding that this is what lead to the gas pipes bursting in the Marina. I also understand that a subsequent City of SF Public Commission recommended that concrete piers be built into the sediments to help prevent this from happening in the future, funded by Marina property fees, but home owners defeated those measures.

      The problem did not (will not) disappear on it’s own…

  • Richard Seyman

    The warning system seems to be able to provide warnings ONLY to those AWAY from the epicenter of the quake. Is that not the case, given it depends upon the difference in the speed of the two kinds of waves generated by the actual quake event?

  • Jackie

    Has there been effort to use crowd funding to implement the early warning system? WIth the large population of California and this recent earthquake as a reminder, 80 million seems to be within a reasonable amount to raise if we can get a campaign like the ALS water bucket challenge. A warning system is something that we can all benefit from and it seems that Californians would be willing to each give $1, $5, or $10. I know I would!

  • Robert Thomas

    How much damage did Napa see as a result of the Loma Prieta earthquake?

    I well remember the damage I saw in neighboring Los Gatos and Santa Cruz then, to many buildings of un-reenforced masonry which just don’t exist any more or have been strictly retrofitted – especially public buildings.

    Not long ago, I was in Santa Rosa and marveled at the number of buildings that are both lovely and also – to me – look like monstrous death-traps. My host was surprised that I thought this. To him, they appear soundly built.

    Built of stone and bricks, and no steel.

  • Stacy

    We live in Sunnyvale and woke to our bed gently swaying. It was strange that nothing else in the room rattled. Be the time we realized it was an earthquake, it was over.

  • Emily Souther

    I know that regulations for earthquake safety are very stringent for new buildings but I’m wondering if there is a way to find out what retrofits have been made on older buildings. Is there some sort of public record that lists retrofits for buildings? I live in a 1920’s apartment building in Oakland and am not sure how much has really been done to secure the building.

  • bcowart

    The City of Berkeley offers a rebate of 1% of the transfer fees when someone buys a house, for earthquake retrofitting. I used this (for me it was $1600) when I bought my 1982-built house perched in the North Berkeley hills. Among other things such as (redundant) sheer walling, bolting of ceilings and floors, I had the best of the gas auto-shutoff valves installed. It was not that expensive. A few hundred dollars. We KNOW that the worst of the destruction after a major earthquake is caused by fire. Think San Francisco, 1906. The fires nowadays are the result of natural gas due to things such as broken mains, toppled hot water heaters, etc. Don’t believe that you’ll have the presence of mind to find the gas wrench for your domicile’s gas main and turn it off. Do you even have a wrench? Do you know where the valve is? Probably not, especially if you are a renter and not a home owner. You will be dealing with things such as bleeding feet due to broken windows glass, or trying to save people who have been trapped under structures or bookcases, etc. My automatic gas-cutoff valve has not mis-triggered even once, in the 20 years since it was installed, and it is installed down the hill right on the street where trucks go rumbling by. It was designed by a retired PG&E engineer. I live in a designated fire hazard zone, and even still, automatic gas-cutoff valves are not mandated by the CIty of Berkeley. In my opinion this is reckless, short-sighted, and unconscionable. I believe every city in the SF Bay Area should amend their building codes to mandate gas cutoff valves just as they have done regarding installation of smoke detectors, carbon-monoxide detectors, and other safety codes.

    • erictremont

      It mystifies me why there is so little effort by utility companies, fire departments, etc. to encourage or require homeowners to install automatic gas-shut off valves.

  • Justin

    On the Forum program, the Secretary of the OES said “we’re waiting to form a public/private partnership” to get the earthquake early warning system funded. Really? Why is forming a public/private partnership so important? I get doing this with other non emergency government programs, but an early warning alert system for earthquakes has to wait so the State of California can form a public/private partnership? The state’s budget for FY2013/14 was $156 billion. You’re telling me the legislature and the governor couldn’t find the $92 million to get the program started and then the $12 million to maintain it? Getting this program up and running should be a major priority for our state government. I am not going to care about a public/private partnership the next time I am jolted out of bed in the middle of the night by an earthquake I could have been warned was coming.This is a no-brainer folks.. get it done now.

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