Alarming results of Hayward fault study

March 20, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The next big earthquake along the Hayward fault could be much, much worse than the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. A new report says a major quake on the Hayward fault could damage 83,000 housing units, force 220,000 people out of their homes and shut down more than 1,000 roads.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the Hayward fault could be the most dangerous fault in America. The 74-mile-long fault line cuts right through the middle of the stadium at the University of California Berkeley. It runs from Milpitas, north along the base of the East Bay hills, and all the way to San Pablo Bay.

The fault passes through dozens of East Bay communities, hospitals and schools along the 880 corridor. A major quake could even sever pipelines from the Hetch-Hetchy water supply to the Bay Area, leaving nearly 2.5 million of us without water in the Bay Area.

Are you ready? It's a question that earthquake experts believe is more important than ever when it comes to the Hayward fault.

So, is the Bay Area ready for the big one?

"I would have to give us, I guess, a 'C,'" says risk management expert Mary Lou Zoback. "We know that this event is going to impact about five million people in the Bay Area and affect about $1.5 trillion worth of property, contents and related business activities."

The Bay Area has already experienced a major quake on the Hayward fault. It happened in October, 140 years ago. In Hayward, you can see how much the fault has moved in recent years by the cracks on streets and curbs, and bubbles on walls of buildings along the fault.

The revised estimates are based on a new analysis which suggests that the 1868 Hayward earthquake was closer to a magnitude of seven rather than 6.8. The devastation would be even worse than previously imagined.

"There's about 80,000 employers in the area that's going to be shaken strongly and that's related to about 1.5 million jobs," says Zoback.

Estimated losses to residential and commercial properties would likely exceed $165 billion. Damage to the infrastructures could also be staggering.

"ABAG has created a model that is predicting about 1,100 road closures," says Jeanne Perkins with the Association of Bay Area Government.

"Sewage pipelines, natural gas pipelines, water pipelines will cross the fault and will be damaged following an earthquake," says Keith Knudsen with the Earthquake Energy Research Institute.

Older buildings would be at higher risk. New ones would fare much better, but what about the infrastructure around them?

"The buildings may be standing if the streets settle by a couple of feet; people may not be able to get to their businesses or their homes," says Knudsen.

The group known as the 1868 Hayward Earthquake Alliance, which released the analysis, wants every school in the Bay Area to participate in a drop, cover and hold drill at 10:00 a.m. on October 21st. That is the anniversary of the 1868 Hayward quake.


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