Monday, August 13, 2007

 

Potential Disaster of the Day

Sandwiched between the powerful San Andreas and San Jacinto faults, the Coachella Valley could be the epicenter of the most devastating earthquake in the country, one that is already 300 years overdue, a government scientist warned.... —David Kelly writing in "Scientist makes dire earthquake prediction"

Kelly continues,

A likely scenario would have a magnitude-7.8 earthquake strike in the Salton Sea, extending north and west toward Palmdale. Jones predicted the shaking could last more than 100 seconds, kill thousands, destroy homes, collapse the I-10 and I-15 freeways, ignite petroleum pipelines and leave untold thousands homeless in potentially searing desert heat. The long-term effects, she said, could be akin to the economic collapse of New Orleans and the Gulf region following Hurricane Katrina.

"This will have long-term economic implications across the nation," she said.

It would be even worse should the quake hit during Santa Ana winds, possibly adding fires as another major element to the disaster, Jones said.

Jones said Los Angeles would not be spared. The tremendous forces released by the slipping faults would send shock waves through the earth that could easily collapse tall buildings in Los Angeles the way the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake ... collapsed the Bay Bridge between Oakland and San Francisco about 50 miles away.

"This is a whole new level of disaster," she said.

The article doesn't mention what preparations have been made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). That may be because DHS's emergency planning is now done in secret.

Spencer S. Hsu wrote this understated report last week—

A decision by the Bush administration to rewrite in secret the nation's emergency response blueprint has angered state and local emergency officials, who worry that Washington is repeating a series of mistakes that contributed to its bungled response to Hurricane Katrina nearly two years ago.

State and local officials in charge of responding to disasters say that their input in shaping the National Response Plan was ignored in recent months by senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials, despite calls by congressional investigators for a shared overhaul of disaster planning in the United States.

"In my 19 years in emergency management, I have never experienced a more polarized environment between state and federal government," said Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma's emergency management chief and president of a national association of state emergency managers.
....

The disagreement over the plan comes at a time of increasing mistrust between Washington and state homeland security officials. In recent months, they have sparred over dwindling federal grants, the adequacy of local intelligence-gathering efforts and what states regard as Washington's reluctance to share information about potential threats.
....

Federal officials, Ashwood said, appear to be trying to create a legalistic document to shield themselves from responsibility for future disasters and to shift blame to states. "It seems that the Katrina federal legacy is one of minimizing exposure for the next event and ensuring future focus is centered on state and local preparedness," he said.
....

John R. Harrald, a professor at George Washington University's Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management, cautioned that shutting out state and local voices during the plan's preparation would be ill-advised. He said that the administration appears "to be guided by a desire to ensure centralized control of what is an inherently decentralized process. . . . Response to catastrophic events requires collaboration and trust in a broad network of organizations."

The Bush administration collaborate? Surely he jests.

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