What happens when the Big One hits?
November 12, 2008 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Is Oakland supposed to...ripple like that?

When the Hayward Fault finally flips out - and it will - what will it do to the Bay Area? Geologists have created simulations, from Berkeley to San Jose. warning: pop-up quicktime movies in the last link. Previously on MetaFilter; currently on AskMe (yes, you should buy earthquake insurance).
posted by rtha (63 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looks like the ripple in that first video was done by a lazy animator who just made the whole frame ripple rather than the drawn topography. That or when the Hayward Fault looses its shit time and space will have trouble keeping up.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:41 PM on November 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


California preps for the ‘Big One’ -- "'The Great Southern California Shakeout' is the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history." [video | 02.28]
posted by ericb at 12:43 PM on November 12, 2008


Yes. This actually happens.

I was in Santa Rosa, California for the Loma Prieta quake. When we realized there was an earthquake, we ran outside and waited on the large lawn. It was amazing to watch; large waves were rolling through the ground, just like ocean waves. The concrete and asphalt didn't buckle; they flexed in strange and disturbing ways.

That animation is probably precisely correct.
posted by Malor at 12:45 PM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


The video says it's a 1000x exaggeration.
posted by demiurge at 12:46 PM on November 12, 2008


I prefer my earthquake simulations to be made in jello.
posted by queensissy at 12:49 PM on November 12, 2008


Oakland wobbles but it don't fall down.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:55 PM on November 12, 2008 [7 favorites]


whoo whoooo.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:03 PM on November 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


nthing demiurge above . . . it's a 1000x exaggeration . . . of an earthquake that attains a magnitude of IX on the richter scale of intensity?? gosh . . . talk about a BIG one . . .
posted by deejay jaydee at 1:04 PM on November 12, 2008


The Hayward Fault quake will actually be divine punishment for the hyphy movement.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:12 PM on November 12, 2008 [14 favorites]


It's actually reassuring to me that this is the only post with a doomedItellyoudoomed tag. And I live in Iowa. We only have tornados and floods here (usually not at the same time).

Wild fires, Prop 8, earthquakes, Schwarzenegger. California is screwed.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:13 PM on November 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Eh, Californians can prepare (for most of it). Earthquakes: build to code, and then some. Fires: stick with populated city centers, away from large brushy areas and canyons of firey doom. Prop 8: there's a legal process for this (hopefully). Schwarzenegger: unclear - he might not be that bad (compared to past folks - the whole special election was a huge waste, but it's over now).

Floods? Build high above any possible flood plain. Tornadoes? Pray to the gods of unpredictability that someone else gets it and not you. Those are some scary muvvas (speaking as a Californian).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:18 PM on November 12, 2008


Ghost ride the earth
posted by Damn That Television at 1:20 PM on November 12, 2008 [31 favorites]


Well, what do you expect when you build a city on rock and roll?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:20 PM on November 12, 2008 [43 favorites]


Am I the only one that immediately loaded this page before anything else on reading the title?

Yeah, the ripple is exaggerated for visual effect, otherwise from that altitude and view the movement would be sub-pixel. If the ground actually moved that far and that fast you'd see entire skyscrapers being thrown into the sky like bowling pins. Brick houses would explode like they were made out of dynamite and the resulting tsunami would probably make a new (old) sea out of the Imperial Valley.

Which could totally happen. Those mountains came from somewhere. It's just probably more likely to happen in Yellowstone's Megacaldera.

Also: STOP PLATE TECTONICS.
posted by loquacious at 1:22 PM on November 12, 2008


cjorgensen, you're not out of the woods yet.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:22 PM on November 12, 2008


I checked this when I saw this post.
posted by vporter at 1:26 PM on November 12, 2008


And I live in Iowa. We only have tornados and floods here (usually not at the same time).

The New Madrid Seismic Zone.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:29 PM on November 12, 2008


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing writes "The Hayward Fault quake will actually be divine punishment for the hyphy movement."

It'll be divine punishment for mocking the hyphy movement.

*goes back to sippin' drank*
posted by mullingitover at 1:32 PM on November 12, 2008


I left California last year after a 3 year stay and, in regard to this particular issue (earthquakes), I am tearfully glad of that move. I experienced one very mild 30 second rolling quake in my brief stay and yeah. The earth randomly moving around under my fucking feet? I'm not cool with that.

A flood? No problem. Hurricane? Been there, done that. Tornado? At least there's a chance of a siren. Earthquakes weird me out, man.
posted by empyrean at 1:32 PM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


It'll be divine punishment for mocking the hyphy movement.

Did I say "hyphy movement"? I meant "crunk, given new name and different terminology".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:33 PM on November 12, 2008


I was at work in SoDo Seattle during the Nisqually Quake, and looked out the window just as it hit. The cars in the parking lot were being borne aloft on a swelling sea of asphalt, gently rising and falling. Felt like the first few weird moments after the acid hits.
posted by SaintCynr at 1:49 PM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hope whoever Obama appoints to FEMA has their shit together when it comes to earthquakes. Because if a big one hit the Bay Area or SoCal, it could really turn into a Katrina x10. Especially in SF where, if shit goes bad, there aren't a lot of ways to flee the peninsula. And to dismiss the threat of catastrophe by citing earthquake-proof building codes sort of ignores all the underground wiring and gas lines and such that could ignite SF into a ball of fire and destruction and take the city down once again.

I mean, a huge earthquake is going to happen there, it's just a matter of when. Hopefully when I'm nowhere near it.
posted by billysumday at 1:51 PM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Good thing that "there's no there there," or shit would fall down!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:02 PM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


My house sits almost exactly on top of the southern Whidbey Island fault. Good times!

In the Nisqually quake, I had just stepped from the shower in my 1900 frame house in Seattle. I had visions of being the most embarrassing body pulled from the wreckage.
posted by maxwelton at 2:11 PM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Do the Golden Bears still have the endzone sections of their stadium tarped over?
I work for a city government now, and have to call in on my day off tomorrow after making sure my pets and roommate are OK. ...should probably crack open the earthquake buckets and make sure everything's still groovy there too. Thanks for the reminder!
posted by carsonb at 2:13 PM on November 12, 2008


Yeah, speaking as someone who's lived on the SF Peninsula his entire life, the Hayward fault scares the shit out of me! Loma Prieta was certainly scary, but most of the real damage took place elsewhere, primarily in Santa Cruz, Oakland, and SF. When the Hayward fault lets go, we're all fucked. For anyone who lives in the area, and especially those that own a home, I highly recommend reviewing the material on the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) earthquake information page. There's a lot of good info there, even if the site design is straight outta 1998.
posted by mosk at 2:16 PM on November 12, 2008


Looks like the worst of it will be east of 580, which makes me happy now that I spend about half my time living in Emeryville.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:26 PM on November 12, 2008


Uh, Emeryville? You know that's just an artificially created jut of land, right? It'll liquify and dissolve into the bay faster than you can say "Pixar".
posted by billysumday at 2:27 PM on November 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm doubtful when I hear people talk about liquefaction. I was in the Kobe earthquake in 1995 (a 7.2 or 7.3) and I lived an an artificial island. The damage to the physical island itself wasn't too extensive. It certainly didn't dissolve into the ocean. Some big cracks appeared in the soccer fields, some watery sludge gurgled up and the ports near the water had some pretty extensive damage to the concrete that made up their general structure. But like I said, it wasn't the end of days. Our island actually escaped relatively unscathed compared to the rest of Kobe.

Is the bay area especially vulnerable? How is it different from other artificial islands or earthquake scenarios? I guess some more info on the fpp would have been relevant, though I'm sure its been discussed on mefi before.
posted by not applicable at 2:47 PM on November 12, 2008


I'm going to choose to believe that what I'm seeing here is that Oakland is actually a non-Newtonian fluid.
posted by quin at 3:01 PM on November 12, 2008


Well, the USGS stuff linked under "it will" is talking about the probability of a 6.7 or above. Even a 7 magnitude isn't going to cause chaos -- perhaps extensive property damage, but loss of life will be minimal and disruption is unlikely to be severe. Loma Prieta was a 7.1, for example.

Anything over 8 would be the real worry (and a 9 could be insane), but I haven't seen any estimates on how likely those are.

While building codes aren't an invincible shield, look at the difference between a 7 here and, say, the 1999 earthquake in Turkey (7.4) which killed tens of thousands.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:04 PM on November 12, 2008


I'm doubtful when I hear people talk about liquefaction.

You may very well be doubtful when "people" talk about liquefaction, but what about "geologists"? They're like people but nerdier and much more fascinated by rocks!!

Significant portions of Alameda County could be susceptible to landslides or liquefaction in the event of a strong earthquake, according to six new Seismic Hazard Zone maps released today by the California Department of Conservation.
posted by billysumday at 3:05 PM on November 12, 2008


Liquefaction is what pancaked houses in SF's Marina district during Loma Prieta. More on liquefaction.
posted by rtha at 3:07 PM on November 12, 2008


"9. An automobile lies crushed under the third story of this apartment building in the Marina District. The ground levels are no longer visible because of structural failure and sinking due to liquefaction. [J.K. Nakata, U.S. Geological Survey]"
posted by rtha at 3:12 PM on November 12, 2008


maybe not doubtful then, more like confused.
posted by not applicable at 3:33 PM on November 12, 2008


Great quakes are indeed terrifying, but as others have said, survivable if buildings are up to California code. We were right in the thick of things for the Mw7.3 Landers quake of 1992 and 1999's Mw7.3 Hector Mine earthquake.

Watching the response and cooperation of local, state and federal government agencies and the speed and efficiency at which NGO's, private industry and various private groups joined in the effort was pretty impressive. Those of us who live in California like to gripe a lot about our government, but there is no better place to be when disaster hits.

With the possible exception of Florida, no other state is as prepared (or as experienced) for anything like our state government. And that preparation extends down through most of our county/city governments, along with private industries that know in advance what their contribution will be. Perhaps most importantly, we private citiizens have been constantly bombarded with what we need to be ready for.

But, even with all of the forethought, preparation and practice, things are gonna be Hell here for a period of years after the Big One hits and the infrastructure is rebuilt.
posted by buggzzee23 at 3:51 PM on November 12, 2008


Ripple? Hell yeah, man! It's just like Garcia sang: "Ripple in still water, when there is no pebble tossed, no wind to blow..." The Dead knew about all this stuff, man, that's why everybody oughtta be listening to the Dead, man.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:55 PM on November 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


You can build to code, but nature has a way of exceeding those tolerances.

So good luck with that.
posted by bwg at 3:59 PM on November 12, 2008


I just keep hoping I won't be in the Bay when this thing hits. At the very least, I'll have to start taking people in if their houses destruct. Which it looks like at least some folks will. Eeek.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:27 PM on November 12, 2008


Ripple? Hell yeah, man! It's just like Garcia sang: "Ripple in still water, when there is no pebble tossed, no wind to blow..." The Dead knew about all this stuff, man, that's why everybody oughtta be listening to the Dead, man.

Have you ever lived in a house full of Deadheads? Deadheads who exchange what sounds like the same shitty live bootleg back and forth, raving about "Philly 96! Oh man, that's nothing compared to Detroit 83!" even though each tape sounds like the same boring, plinkety-plinkety, 45-minute noodle-fest? Deadheads whose idea of a "break" from listening to the Dead every waking hour is to play some Steve Miller, and who will drop their bongs, bellowing with rage, if you try playing any other band? If not, then trust me - not everybody ought to be listening to the Dead.

Which I say knowing full well you were just making a joke, man. Heh.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:32 PM on November 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


How to Tell that This Video is Exaggerated

(Besides the 1000x exaggeration legend in the figure)

The foreground shows a long runway at an international airport; in general, these are about 10,000 feet long. Compared to this length, the end of the runway seems to oscillate about 2000 feet, with one thrust taking about three seconds. 2000 feet in 3 seconds is 2000*3600/3 = 2,400,000 ft/hr = 455 miles per hour, which is really too fast for rocks that aren't meteors.
posted by tss at 4:36 PM on November 12, 2008


Marc Reisner, who wrote Cadillac Desert, talked about this in his last book, A Dangerous Place. The last part of the otherwise nonfiction book is his imagining what it would be like to be there when the big one hits.

Takeaway message: it's not the quake that probably gets you, it's the fires that rage out of control once all the water lines are cut.
posted by gottabefunky at 4:51 PM on November 12, 2008


I'v been too afraid to read that book...
posted by rtha at 5:20 PM on November 12, 2008


Thanks Mosk. That ABAG site is great.
posted by benzenedream at 5:38 PM on November 12, 2008


whoo whoooo.

I was a little out of sorts since I didn't know where I put my glasses before I went to bed.

Besides my house falling on me, my other big worry is being blind after the quake.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 6:01 PM on November 12, 2008


bbt, I am SOOO paranoid about my glasses getting smooshed in a quake, and here I am barely a few miles from the Hayward Fault!
posted by supermedusa at 7:11 PM on November 12, 2008


Waking up in the middle of the night because of minor quakes here in Oakland pushed me to finally get Lasik. I couldn't stand the thought of being disoriented and blind in the middle of a big trembler.
posted by hangingbyathread at 8:43 PM on November 12, 2008


Video of liquefaction in Japan (1964).
posted by 445supermag at 9:02 PM on November 12, 2008


I'm relieved to see that you knew it was a joke, MStPT. And, yes, I've spent some time here and there with Deadheads like you mention. Tiresome, brother, tiresome.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:15 PM on November 12, 2008


Video of liquefaction in Japan (1964).

Holy crap! What would that do to somoene who fell down while it was going on around them? Just give them a good bone rattling shake or would some of those waves continue through their body and turn them into slurry?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:16 PM on November 12, 2008


More on liquefaction in Niigata, 1964.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:28 PM on November 12, 2008


...or would some of those waves continue through their body and turn them into slurry?

Maybe elsewhere, B-han, but here in Japan it turns you into miso soup.

Mmmm! Miso soup!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:32 PM on November 12, 2008


Ah, so if you were caught in the middle of liquefaction taking place you would probably just sink down like you were in quicksand and then suffocate to death. How...comforting.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:34 PM on November 12, 2008


Heh...you would exclaim "Me so soup!" (cause of the broken English acceptance of your fate of becoming soup, see)
posted by Burhanistan at 9:35 PM on November 12, 2008


On a positive note, Maynard is happy.
posted by LordSludge at 9:37 PM on November 12, 2008


Maybe it will drive real estate prices down enough so I can move back from Virginia and finally buy my California home.
posted by pmbuko at 9:42 PM on November 12, 2008


It really does ripple like that on soft substrate- I saw an earthquake on a flat expanse of sand once and it was pretty cool. It shook all the tracks out like an Etch-A-Sketch.

What I'm really waiting for is a repeat of the the 1862 flood.. They say it rained for so long that water flowed out against the tide through the Golden Gate for 8 straight days. The central valley was submerged to the tops of the telegraph poles and Orange County was an inland sea. They had to inaugurate the new governor in a rowboat.
posted by fshgrl at 9:59 PM on November 12, 2008


On fishgirl's seismic fetish is 2 million other people's overarching catastrophic nightmare.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:01 PM on November 12, 2008


Maybe it will drive real estate prices down enough so I can move back from Virginia and finally buy my California home.

I have friends that are just waiting for the big one to come so that they can afford property.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:05 PM on November 12, 2008


broken English acceptance of your fate

My new favorite phrase.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:32 PM on November 12, 2008


So, I've been to Alaska, and I've always been more freaked out by *their* earthquakes than California's. Ghost trees? For miles and miles?

No, thanks, I'll take San Francisco circa 1906, fire and all.

Not because the huge earthquake and the fires and floods afterward were in any way better than the '64 Alaska quake, but because Californians by and large know what to expect out of their quakes.

We've been preparing and learning (can't underestimate that) for years, and optimism says that those are important in the scheme of things.
posted by librarylis at 12:24 AM on November 13, 2008


On fishgirl's seismic fetish is 2 million other people's overarching catastrophic nightmare.

Oh it's not seismic, it's just a really big rainstorm. And its pretty much bound to happen again some day. But apparently people never learn when it comes to building houses and other important in risky places.

Me included. I live, literally, on the San Andreas fault.
posted by fshgrl at 12:46 AM on November 13, 2008


As a project for my work, I was called upon to convert liquefaction maps for the 9 counties north of the bay into Google Maps overlays. It's sort of sobering to see just how much of the area actually is in some danger of liquefaction/settlement.

Then again, I'm also nth-ing the "we know how to build/plan/prepare for it" comments above. California's fascination with the earth is the reason I became a geologist in the first place.
posted by Phineas Rhyne at 9:32 PM on November 13, 2008


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