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Next Earthquake Could Cripple Region

Los Angeles is due for a massive rumbling on the San Andreas Fault, experts warn at USC gathering.

Next Earthquake Could Cripple Region
The next big earthquake on the San Andreas Fault will be a Hurricane Katrina-like event that could cripple the Los Angeles region for decades, a coalition of experts warned Jan. 9 at USC.

The date marked the 150th anniversary of the last large earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault. The anniversary also marks the median time between large quakes on the fault.

The Earthquake Country Alliance, a new coalition of seismologists, officials and community leaders, chose the anniversary to launch “Dare to Prepare,” a new readiness campaign.

And not a moment too soon.

“The section of the fault that broke in 1857 could be said to be nine months pregnant,” Thomas Jordan of the USC College told a packed news conference.

The southernmost section of the fault, which has not ruptured for more than 300 years, is “at least 10 months pregnant,” added Jordan, who directs the Southern California Earthquake Center.

At the conference and in an op-ed published that morning in the Los Angeles Times, Jordan estimated the likelihood of a big quake somewhere on the southern section in the next 30 years at 30 to 70 percent, depending on the models used.

A repeat of the 1857 earthquake would cause more than $150 billion in economic damages, according to consulting firm Risk Management Solutions. Only $15 to 25 billion would be covered by insurance, said RMS spokesperson Patricia Rossi.

Strikingly, fewer residents are covered by earthquake insurance than at the time of the Northridge earthquake of 1994, Rossi added. Only 6 percent of residential damage would be insured today.

“The next really big one on the San Andreas Fault will be our Katrina,” said Ellis Stanley, general manager of emergency preparedness for the City of Los Angeles. “We can act now to reduce our losses, and the next big one will be survivable.”

For more information on the new earthquake readiness campaign, go to

The Southern California Earthquake Center is a consortium of 54 institutions headquartered at USC, with funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Earthquake Authority.