March 25, 2006


Fault East of Bay Area 'Locked and Loaded' (SCOTT LINDLAW, Associated Press)

New cracks appear in Elke DeMuynck's ceiling every few weeks, zigzagging across her living room, creeping toward the fireplace, veering down the wall. Month after month, year after year, she patches, paints and waits.

"It definitely lets you know your house is constantly shifting," DeMuynck said. So do the gate outside that swings uselessly 2 1/2 inches from its latch, the strange bulges in the street and the geology students who make pilgrimages to her cul-de-sac.

DeMuynck could throw her paint brush from her front stoop and hit the Hayward Fault, which geologists consider the most dangerous in the San Francisco Bay Area, if not the nation. Like others who live here, she gets by on a blend of denial, hope and humor.

It's the geologists, emergency planners and historians who seem to do most of the worrying, even in this year of heightened earthquake awareness for the 100th anniversary of San Francisco's Great Quake of April 18, 1906.

Several faults lurk beneath this region, including the San Andreas Fault on the west side of the Bay area, but geologists say the parallel Hayward on the Bay's east side is the most likely to snap next.

"It is locked and loaded and ready to fire at any time," said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Tom Brocher.

We don't even need the quake to actually happen to know how it goes: afterwards, in the midst of 24 hour global tv coverage, Ms DeMuynck complains that no one ever warned her how dangerous it was, the Reverends Falwell & Robertson clainm it was the will of God because of queers, and Democrats claim it's the worst the federal government has ever handled a disaster while the Right digs up the example of '06 to show how much more civilly we dealt with the looters this time. Meanwhile, most of us just shake our heads and wonder how stupid you have to be to live in California, nevermind on a fault line....

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 25, 2006 6:06 PM

Newspapers and networks pre-author obituaries for the day when this celebrity or that notable person passes on. Maybe they could do the same for the future Bay Area earthquake stories, and just cut and paste the fatality numbers and damage estimates into the proper holes.

Posted by: John at March 25, 2006 7:10 PM


I'm with you on the politics and the cultural idiots, but good golly is California gorgeous.

I've posited that it's beauty and climate is actually it's problem. You get so used it that you think that everything must be made as beautiful by legislation.

Since they are all so collectivist, I suggest we ask that they support legislation forcing them out of their homes for 2-3 year streches so that other people in the nation can enjoy living there for a while. If not that, then they need to pay the rest of the nation a windfall climate and vista tax.

Oh well, so much for my feeble attempts at humor.

Posted by: Bruno at March 25, 2006 7:22 PM

It's the water. Though the Hayward Fault runs north-south in the East Bay through Oakland, Berkeley, etc., the fault also straddles the only aqueduct for San Francisco's water from the Hetch Hetchy Valley near Yosemite. This aqueduct is 100 years old. A quake of severe magnitude will certainly destroy it. Now that I'm thinking about it, better buy some more bottled water.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at March 25, 2006 7:44 PM

""It is locked and loaded and ready to fire at any time," said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Tom Brocher."

Wouldn't this phrase be offensive to the delicate sensibilities of the anti-gun, anti-war, anti-military folks who are living on that faultline?

Send this man back to seismologist sensitivity school!

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at March 25, 2006 8:06 PM

"The City That Waits to Die" has been waiting since 1971. And considering the big centennial is in a couple of weeks, is it any wonder there's going to be an uptick in such stories between now and then? I'm just surprised they hadn't started already.

And not just the aquaducts. The valleys formed by the Hayward and Calaveras faults are great for roads. I-680 follows both at some point, while I-580 has several major interchanges right on the Hayward.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 25, 2006 8:54 PM

A big earthquake on the Hayward fault would be devastating. The "flatlands" between the mountains and bay there are soft soil, much of it landfill on top of old swamps, that shivers like jello in response to earthquake waves. I was in the Oakland flatlands when the 1989 7.2 Loma Prieta quake hit. That was over 60 miles away, and it was very impressive -- my house oscillated back and forth an amplitude of about 3 feet for over a minute, all the wood squealing. If a bigger quake hits on the Hayward fault, there's going to be a lot of damage. The roads and bridges won't be traversable, the utilities won't work, it'll be a mess.

Posted by: pj at March 25, 2006 9:13 PM

Luckily they're only forecasting 6.7 to 7.0, which shouldn't be all that deadly, just very expensive.

Posted by: pj at March 26, 2006 9:41 AM

While wars and disease cause population changes, certain natural disasters cause shifts in attitudes & geographic preferences. 1971 quake scared the .... out of me and others that I know. I'm back now, and the place is more crowded than it was. Where is the safest place to live? The south has the New Madrid fault, I wonder if it's done for a few hundred more years, or...? I personally would prefer a wide open space DURING a quake, but wouldn't want to live there 24/7. Obviously don't know what i'm talking about, so why are you reading this..sigh

Posted by: dfs at March 27, 2006 3:45 AM