Government shutdown closes USGS creating more work for UC Berkeley Earthquake lab

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- The Coast Guard and IRS aren't the only federal agencies affected by the government shutdown.

The US Geological Survey has furloughed many of its workers, including many who staff the headquarters in Menlo Park.

That means more work for scientists at UC Berkeley's seismology lab, especially in the wake of back-to-back earthquakes near Berkeley.

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"The quake hit near the intersection of 24 and highway 13, near the Claremont Hotel."

Those words are from Professor Roland Burgmann, a geophysicist and earthquake expert at UC Berkeley's Seismology lab.

The second earthquake in two days hit the Hayward fault early this morning.

He says a yesterday's was magnitude 3.4. Today's was a 3.5.

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Both originated in nearly the same spot. The Berkeley Seismology lab is watching them closely.

"Earthquakes like to cluster. We have aftershocks. In this case it seems like the second event was a little bit larger than yesterday," said Burgmann.

But, the lab is analyzing and putting out information without the collaboration of a close ally.

The government shutdown has resulted in scientists at the US Geological Survey being furloughed.

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"The Berkeley seismo lab is set up to do a little bit more of the effort at this time. I know that USGS has asked some of my colleagues to do certain tasks they usually wouldn't have to do," Burgmann said.

The USGS website that tracks earthquakes around the world is automated.

Now, the Berkeley lab is doing more of the analysis and providing that information to the public.

Professor Burgmann says the real concern is about the next big quake on the Hayward Fault - one that could rival or surpass the '89 Loma Prieta Earthquake in damage and lives lost.

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Seismologists say it's coming. They don't know exactly when, but they do know USGS expertise will be needed.

"They're not really staffed sufficiently if we have a big event, they would have to call back people really quickly," said Burgmann.

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