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Rocking and rolling... California style!
June 23, 2006 6:35 PM   Subscribe

San Andreas primed to "explode." Growing up in SoCal, we constantly practiced earthquake drills in anticipation of the "Big One." Now, new evidence suggests that the Big One will be even worse than we all feared. At the moment, everything looks calm though. People say we're crazy for living in either San Francisco or Los Angeles, of course we think living in New Orleans is crazy too. But cities are rebuilt. And no matter where you go, you really can't escape natural disasters. Besides, some of the biggest earthquakes in the United States were in Missouri! In any case, Forbes compiled a list of the safest and least safest places to live in the U.S. in regards to natural disasters. Apparently... we should all move to Hawaii!
posted by RockBandit (48 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I advise against Honolulu. Having lived there for a couple years, I have to say that I'm pretty confused every time someone talks about what a nice place to live it is. I thought it was an isolated little nothing kind of city, with little of the culture that makes big city living a neat thing. I wouldn't go back willingly.

I'd say that we're crazy for continuing to build the same stick-frame houses in such disaster-prone locations. The quality of our homes is, frankly, poop, and as a result every time there's a hurricane or quake people die unnecessarily.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:49 PM on June 23, 2006


Katarina: The Great Gentrification
posted by mischief at 6:54 PM on June 23, 2006


-a
posted by mischief at 6:55 PM on June 23, 2006


Is there a way to see the lists in the Forbes article without having to click through one at a time?
posted by amro at 6:57 PM on June 23, 2006


Least safest?

*thwack*
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:10 PM on June 23, 2006



I can't help but notice that the, erm, least safe (safetiest?) places to live are all in the South and Midwest. Truly God's country.
posted by bukharin at 7:15 PM on June 23, 2006 [2 favorites]


I can't help but notice that the, erm, least safe (safetiest?) places to live are all in the South and Midwest. Truly God's country.

Of course! You have to watch out for all that fire and brimstone that's raining down!

(My apologies for my grammatical error! I mean I study rocks after all! :-P )
posted by RockBandit at 7:21 PM on June 23, 2006


Hell, the midwest isn't *that* safe. The New Madrid earthquakes in 1811, 12, etc., were in the 8.0 range, and felt all the way to the Pacific coast. And then... tornadoes!
posted by headspace at 7:28 PM on June 23, 2006


I think that Forbes list is measuring danger to property as well as persons -- that's the only way you'd get away with ranking tornadoes up with hurricanes and earthquakes on the danger scale. I'll take my chances in Kansas City over Los Angeles.
posted by gum at 7:45 PM on June 23, 2006


I think I'd like Hawaii...in spite of the lack of culture normally attached to cities. It would beat the midwest!
posted by sameasthem at 7:50 PM on June 23, 2006


I don't mind the stick frame houses at all, they flex better and they don't do as much damage when they fall and what with CA haivng the toughest building codes in the world they're less and less likely to fall. However, I now live in a Bay Area neighbourhood that got leveled in 1906 and was rebuilt the sact same way: with brick. Good job idiots.
posted by fshgrl at 7:55 PM on June 23, 2006


I already saw that documentary. Lex Luthor's plan is foiled when Superman flies around the earth to turn back time.
posted by solid-one-love at 7:58 PM on June 23, 2006


I grew up in Portland, and it was pretty common for us to make jokes about SF and LA and how stupid the people were to live there on top of the fault line.

...but that stopped on May 18, 1980 when Mt. St. Helens blew up, and we discovered that we were living in the middle of one of the most active ranges of volcanos on the planet.

During one of the preliminary eruptions before the big one, the wind was blowing towards Portland and we got about a quarter of an inch of volcanic ash laid on top of everything. If, on May 18, the wind had been exactly the same, the city would have been buried 8 feet deep in ash, and most of the people in the city would have died over the next couple of weeks from hunger or thirst, because there would have been no way to rescue them and no way to bring in supplies.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:05 PM on June 23, 2006


1adam12: I advise against Honolulu. Having lived there for a couple years, I have to say that I'm pretty confused every time someone talks about what a nice place to live it is. I thought it was an isolated little nothing kind of city, with little of the culture that makes big city living a neat thing. I wouldn't go back willingly.

I've lived in Honolulu for 16 years now and see plays on a regular basis, attend gallery opening pretty regularly, have the option to see opera and classical music on a reasonable regular basis and attend a number of dance concerts each year. We have a growing comedy scene, a decent variety of nightclubs and downtown is increasingly gentrified.

While we do have a small town feel, I've never felt like I am missing anything significant I had when I was living in the New York area. Plus, comfortable temperatures all year long, some of the nicest beaches in the world and a tremendous variety of cultural influences (which means we have some an amazing variety of outstanding restaurants).

What we lack is professional sports, and this is a big issue for me but not enough for me to want to return to the land of winter.

Anyhow, my complaint about Honolulu would be the cost of living. It is truly outrageous.

But cultural opportunities abound. What specifically were we missing that made you dislike it so much?

Anyhow, I am sorry that your Honolulu experience wasn't positive. Mine has been fantastic and I'll probably never leave.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:05 PM on June 23, 2006


Interesting list, but no real surprises. Lived in OK for several years, and tornadoes (to me) are one of the most awesome spectacles one could ever see. Pound-for-pound, the most destructive force that Mother Nature can throw at us, so it's a damn good thing that they're so small.

Good to see Idaho represented on the "safest" list.

As for me...the most dangerous thing that I have to fear here in central Montana is the eruption of Yellowstone. Don't think it'll happen anytime soon, but if it does, there's no point in worrying about it, because based on the TV shows and websites that address the possibility, if it does blow, then there won't be anything left in my neck of woods.

Oh, and it does get a bit chilly and windy around here, sometimes, but I'm fine with that. Heh.
posted by davidmsc at 8:16 PM on June 23, 2006


I had no idea there was a site dedicated to April 3, 1974. My family lost several houses and a family member (one of 10 dead) that day.

I was three years old and weathered the storm in the floorboard of an old Buick, my mother laying on top of me, that was crushed (and luckily anchored) under a mammoth tree, in a scene frightenly similar to this picture.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:18 PM on June 23, 2006


The San Jacinto Fault is also a big worry for us SoCalians. The good news is we're almost as prepared as one can be for the Big One. We'll definitely see widespread destruction and suffer casualties when it hits, but thanks to strict building codes, advance planning and constant education, we'll do better than most other areas would under similar circumstances.
posted by buggzzee23 at 8:22 PM on June 23, 2006


Pittsburgh--all we've got to worry about is snow.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:27 PM on June 23, 2006


Wouldn't Honolulu be in danger of tidal waves? They're also the first targets for North Korea if they ever get itchy with the nukes.

I'm in the middle of Wyoming, so I should be completely safe until the Yellowstone supervolcano explodes. I believe I'm in the 'dug out of the ash by archaologists in ten thousands years' range.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:34 PM on June 23, 2006


The San Jacinto Fault is also a big worry for us SoCalians. The good news is we're almost as prepared as one can be for the Big One. We'll definitely see widespread destruction and suffer casualties when it hits, but thanks to strict building codes, advance planning and constant education, we'll do better than most other areas would under similar circumstances.

Hah, I grew up in Redlands. The San Jacinto Fault is another big one and has some interesting implications with it too. Namely, is the ability to produce something called "cascading earthquakes."

This happens when the fault ruptures and hits some other fault crossing it (i.e., the Sierra Madre-Rancho Cucamonga Thrust or even the San Andreas as it passes through the Cajon Pass) and starts to rupture that fault, creating two simultaneous earthquakes. That will be fun!

(Of course creating two M7.0 EQ's is something like creating "only" a M7.1 due to the logarithmic scale and how much energy is released between two earthquakes of different magnitudes)
posted by RockBandit at 8:37 PM on June 23, 2006


I look forward to taking the results from the Institute for Biz and Home Safety survey to my landlord...
posted by rmm at 9:12 PM on June 23, 2006


Well, according to the TV show Millennium, Pocatello, Idaho is the safest place to be.

I believe Brad Dourif to be the great seer of our time.
posted by quin at 9:36 PM on June 23, 2006


Where's Southern New England in this list? The worst thing we get is a blizzard every few years that kills off some of the elderly, and the people stupid enough to drive in it. No tornadoes or earthquakes or forest fires or locusts, and by the time hurricanes get here they are like class 0.
posted by smackfu at 9:41 PM on June 23, 2006


I'm pleased to see Santa Fe at number 3 for safest places, but I'm confused that the brush fire score is 0 and tornado is 3. There are mad fires here!
posted by hyperizer at 9:48 PM on June 23, 2006


And no matter where you go, you really can't escape natural disasters.

Well, in the US, anyway.

Canada doesn't really have much. I think we had a drought once in the 20s. Ice storms occasionally. A hurricane hit the atlantic provinces in the 80s or something. Oh and a tornado in Edmonton in 1989.

But it's pretty tame.
posted by blacklite at 10:08 PM on June 23, 2006


Apparently... we should all move to Hawaii!
Yeah, and all it would take is one tsunami to wipe those islands off the face of the earth.
posted by jahmoon at 10:36 PM on June 23, 2006


Also, NJ is pretty safe. We occasionally get bad T-storms and we can be succeptible to hurricanes, but I don't think we've had anything more than a tropical storm in the last 10-15 years. There are very rarely tornados here.

Although I guess being a coastal state we are also at risk for a tsunami should there ever be one.
posted by jahmoon at 10:40 PM on June 23, 2006


Actually, now that I think about it, (and it's been a long time since my last vulcanism/ plate tectonics class in college) it does kinda seem that as you get closer to the Equator, shit gets markedly worse.

Is there a reason for this? Does being Equatorial make the area more naturally vulcanistic [and is that a real word?]
posted by quin at 10:43 PM on June 23, 2006


The list is rendered rather meaningless, IMO, because of their over-regard for simple cold weather. Snow really isn't that much a disaster, except in places not geared to handle it. It takes very little to disrupt St. Louis, almost nothing to shut down Atlanta. But up in Minnesota, 6" of snow is a trifle.

Sure, severe cold happens, but you can dress for that. And extreme cold generally doesn't happen at the same time as extreme snowfall. And neither is as bad as an ice storm. Ice storms kill trees, take down power lines, and cause stupid people to make traffic accidents.
posted by Goofyy at 10:48 PM on June 23, 2006


Is there a reason for this? Does being Equatorial make the area more naturally vulcanistic [and is that a real word?]

As you know, the sun is made of the essence of gold, and the moon is made of the essence of silver. Since the sun shines on the equator more then other parts of the world, gold deposits form in the crust, and since gold is so soft the crust is weakened, causing volcanos.
posted by delmoi at 10:54 PM on June 23, 2006


Thank you Goofyy - I was going to make a sarcastic remark about the presence of cold weather being noted as a disaster but didn't. You raise a good point; if you're prepared for it, it's not a disaster.

Surprised there's no talk of emergency preparedness per se - talk about not being prepared for disasters...
posted by rmm at 11:05 PM on June 23, 2006


not a damn thing happens in chicago, i don't even thing it's a terrorist target!!.i worked five blocks from the hancock building and on sept 11 they didn't even evacuate that part of the city.nothing happened.i can't remember the last time it rained here.we got some snow a few years back,no wind at all,leaves just fucking hang there forever.....what a boring fucking place this is.sub woofers and hookers are both illegal and if that isn't enough you can't smoke ,drive ,hand dance,talk on the phone and eat ribs at the same time! it's all illegal! can you imagine that? what a place................
posted by gpolito at 11:14 PM on June 23, 2006


Especially when Carl Johnson gets the Hot Coffee mod.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:17 PM on June 23, 2006


Also, NJ is pretty safe. We occasionally get bad T-storms and we can be succeptible to hurricanes, but I don't think we've had anything more than a tropical storm in the last 10-15 years. There are very rarely tornados here.

Although I guess being a coastal state we are also at risk for a tsunami should there ever be one.


True! Especially if the feared Canary Islands tsunami ever happens...
posted by RockBandit at 11:33 PM on June 23, 2006


Dangerous on what time scale . . .? In the longer run, the coasts are doomed, and so are areas in proximity to major tectonic mountain ranges. Coasts have tsunamis, which we now know kick ass on any other natural disaster with human population so large and so coast-bound, earthquakes, hurricanes and cyclones, and ultimately they are all sliding under the sea when global warming melts freaking Greenland. Be at least a few hundred miles inland if you're planning on being around even 100 years from now. And move north while you are at it.

Major mountain ranges over active tectonic regions would also seem to be dubious choices -- anywhere within, say, a 500 mile radius in the worst situations (Himalayas, Rockies, volcanic atolls, etc.) Over time, 12 billion humans (which we'll hit easily) will need to crowd into smaller patches of real estate with fewer sources of fresh water, and increasingly scarce agricultural husbandry. Population density will cause epidemic diseases to spread much more rapidly.

So if we're talking one lifetime, your own, then there's one way of thinking about risk. But if you are trying to settle your tribe somewhere -- let us say along a little beach called Gaza, or in a strange northern city like Kansas City, where you work in a meat plant to send money home to Puebla and work to get everyone across that line eventually -- it's something else again to make a place caled "home." Where will there be social unrest first? Are there positions one could defend easily if necessary? How well does the immediate environment provide some level of sustenance, and especially fresh water? We're all on the move all the time, slowly creeping over the planet, spreading genes and diseases liberally around, tribes mixing with tribes, etc. But that can't happen fast enough to make a difference, and there are a lot of tribes actively scouting the terrain and making careful emplacements in the few best places, and dealing with securing what those places don't have enough of (say, oil). Some have names, some don't. Some are basically criminal enterprises masquerading as "nations." Should you align yourself with a stronger tribe by marrying into it? Raising your kids to assume the full identity? Where's the place that's likely to kick ass and take names when the going gets really tough? The place that sends in the Marines if you mess with their fucking oil supply, the place that still has a big empty plain in its middle, the place with the money to fix some of the probles climate change will produce in conjunction with population growth and cycles of culling by epidemic disease and starvation of the weakest and most under-resourced societies, as happens now in the global south and Africa above all.

We are evolved to discern and measure environmental risks and act in our own immediate best interest, and ultimately the interest of our genes. We learned to scan the horizon for trouble and make for cover a long time ago, and have perfected it to the point that we are numb from paranoia and look urgently to science to save our sorry asses after treating real science like utter shit in the corrosive political and entertainment and religious culture of our time, in more than one society. But at least we'll be have our oil supply secured as we crowd into the northern great plains, we Americans. And there will be a lot of us. And it will be a bad, bad time.

Nice, huh?
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:10 AM on June 24, 2006 [2 favorites]


Ha ha, glad I live in Tokyo, suckers!
posted by Meridian at 12:14 AM on June 24, 2006


Where's Southern New England in this list? The worst thing we get is a blizzard every few years that kills off some of the elderly, and the people stupid enough to drive in it. No tornadoes or

Well, not many. Vermont and New Hampshire in particular seem to have very few tornadoes and most are very weak. But sometimes places unlikely to get a tornado can get a pretty nasty one.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 7:16 AM on June 24, 2006


I love how Kansas City has a 3 hurricane rating. Because there's ANY risk of a hurricane hitting Kansas City.
posted by saladpants at 9:14 AM on June 24, 2006


I lived on the North Shore of Oahu for three years. Hawaii is a nice place, for what it is, but now I live in SF, and believe it or not, it's actually cheaper.

I never hear people mention the possibilities of hurricanes when discussing island living.

Sooner or later, Honolulu is going to get hit. Kauai was nailed a while back, and most of the buildings were flattened ... I don't want to think what Oahu would look like.

I always figured that no matter where you live, you're always at risk of some natural disaster.

You live in the south east, you got hurricanes. The Midwest has tornadoes, earthquakes in the coastal west, and potential ice storms and blizzards in the north and east (best not to go into the hazards of living in Alaska).
posted by Relay at 10:09 AM on June 24, 2006


How about Vancouver? I see it isn't on either the safest or least safe lists. I know there's some earthquake concerns. I'm planning to move from Florida to Vancouver.
posted by mike3k at 11:35 AM on June 24, 2006


How about Vancouver?

Not exactly in the clear. (Unless it's Vancouver, WA you're thinking about...)
posted by hangashore at 12:53 PM on June 24, 2006


I always figured that no matter where you live, you're always at risk of some natural disaster.

I lived in Ireland for 10 years and nothing ever happens there, bar high winds.
posted by fshgrl at 1:00 PM on June 24, 2006


I am from Berkeley but now live in the East. When I was in high school my parents retrofitted our house for earthquake safety. When we kids ran through the house, or when the wind blew, the whole house would shake. Then one night there was a tremor, 3.2 I recall. The house moved around for about a minute afterwards. Remembering back, my dad asked the contractor what exactly the retrofit would do. He replied that it would give my parents another three minutes to get dressed and grab the china. That house, my aunt's house, and my grandmother's all have the Hayward fault running directly underneath. It will be a disaster.
posted by parmanparman at 1:13 AM on June 25, 2006


The earth is screwed anywhere you go; we need to settle Mars.
posted by Poagao at 1:57 AM on June 26, 2006


I'm sort of looking forward to fleeing the crumbling ruins of Los Angeles via motorcycle - given the insane congestion, it might be the only way out when the Big One hits.
posted by thedaniel at 11:51 AM on June 26, 2006


One place which seems to have no natural disasters is Israel. Hmm.
posted by cell divide at 12:03 PM on June 26, 2006


I'm not worried, FEMA will take care of me
posted by hardshoes at 12:09 PM on June 26, 2006


glad I live in Tokyo

Being US-centric they didn't account for giant radio-active lizards.
posted by betaray at 4:21 PM on June 27, 2006


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