Earthquake Essay

Mengchan (Amy) Zhu Professor Knight English 1B 28 January 2019 Earthquakes: The Most Dangerous Natural Disaster of All Imagine attending a major university in Texas such as Texas State University or Texas A&M. You are nearly 100 miles from the Gulf Coast, yet your classes are closed due to flooding from Hurricane Harvey. An inconvenience, yes, but this is hardly a life-threatening natural disaster. Now, suppose you attend the University of Houston or another university located along the Gulf Coast, and Hurricane Harvey hits your university full force. Naturally, all responsible parties should take as many preventative measures as possible, and the University of Houston administrators did just that. Having the benefit of satellite tracking, they were able to anticipate its arrival and successfully evacuate nearly 40",000 students in advance of the hurricane. The flooding destroyed many valuables, but all students were safe (Hutcheson). It is nearly impossible for a hurricane to hit UC Riverside, but there are other, even more potentially damaging natural disasters that could befall our campus. The most dangerous possibility is a catastrophic earthquake. The Northridge earthquake of 1994 should be a constant reminder to UC Riverside administrators of what could happen. On January 17, 1994, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit near Cal State Northridge at 4:30am in the morning. This earthquake killed 57 people including two CSUN students living off campus in an apartment building that collapsed (Saringo-Rodriguez). Because earthquakes give no advanced warnings, evacuations are not possible. There are, however, ways to mitigate earthquake damage, and UC Riverside engineers are in the process of making the campus safer through retrofitting projects due for completion by 2030 (“Request for Qualifications For Seismic Safety Audit.”). Still, there are many other ways that an earthquake can cause damage to besides the initial collapsing of buildings. An earthquake of the magnitude of 7.8 or higher hitting the UC Riverside campus would be, by most estimates, catastrophic, and even with advanced precautions in place, the damage to the campus, faculty and students, and the surrounding infrastructure would be devastating (Lin). The likelihood of a severe earthquake hitting the UC Riverside is more realistic than many might think, given that an active fault line rests just five miles from campus. This fault line runs along the Anza Gap region of the San Jacinto Fault, and according to Abhijit Ghosh, assistant professor of earth sciences at UCRs College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, “experts suspect that this area is ripe to produce a damaging earthquake",” (Nightingale). The San Jacinto Fault is part of the San Andreas Fault system which the U.S. Geological Survey recently studied and published findings based on a hypothetical earthquake. This survey gave details of a possible 7.8 to 8.2 magnitude earthquake hitting the Southern California region. Though estimates are that as few as 70 citizens might be killed in all of Riverside County, the damage to the existing infrastructure would be enormous (Lin). The damage calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey is estimated to be much greater than that caused by the 6.7 Northridge earthquake. The Northridge earthquake caused 142 gas mains to split, thereby setting fires to many buildings in the area. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power lost all power to the city, which meant that electricity was cut off from many places including CSUN, (Ramirez). This type of damage is expected to be more severe with a 7.8 to 8.2 earthquake. Though the epicenter was vague in the U.S. Geological Survey, the engineers estimated that the 10 and 15 freeways would be severed and shifted by fifteen feet, meaning that travel on these and many other freeways would be difficult if not impossible (Lin). Fortunately, UC Riverside’s plans to retrofit as many as 500 buildings is underway, and that would ensure that initial damage at UC Riverside should be kept to a minimum (“Request for Qualifications For Seismic Safety Audit.”). It is also fortunate that much of Riverside’s water supply comes from three underground sources (“Customer Service”), so we will not face some of the problems with accessing water like residents in other areas of Southern California do who rely on the California Aqueduct for water. The Geological Survey theorizes that cities dependent on the Aqueduct would experience a 88% cut in water, because the Aqueduct would likely be destroyed. (Lin). Regardless of some of the benefits of living at UC Riverside, Southern California is interconnected, and what affects some residents will likely affect all residents in one way or another. For instance, the Cajon Pass, though thirty miles from our campus, carries a “potentially explosive mix of pipelines carrying gasoline and natural gas, and overhead electricity lines” (Lin). If ignited, it could create explosions and a giant crater. Power would not be restored for at least several days (Lin). Even if UC Riverside students are safe from falling buildings, our mobility we will be limited due to road closures. Without power, we will be unable to recharge our cell phones, so communications will probably be cut off, and food supplies might be limited, because transportation vehicles will have difficulty getting to and from Southern California. UC Riverside has facilities on campus to treat the injured and to feed students for several days, but without electricity necessary for food refrigeration UC Riverside students may experience food shortages rather quickly. Fortunately, given UC Riverside’s high visibility and importance in the community, rescuing our students will no doubt be a high priority of any rescue operation. Given the recent California wildfires, some might be wondering why a quick burning fire wasn’t selected as the worst possible natural disaster. Given the escalating number of such fires in California and the recent Woolsey fire in Thousand Oaks that could have possibly burned down Pepperdine University, fire is near the top of the list. During the height of these fires, Butte College located near Paradise, California became one example of a college campus threatened with being burned to the ground as the city of Paradise was (Toppo). Though the students at Butte College were evacuated, many of the 3",000 to 4",000 Pepperdine students on the Malibu campus were encouraged to remain on campus despite the proximity of the Woolsey Fire. In both instances, no harm came to the students, but both show the dangers of natural disasters to all including college students (Hong). Though wild fires are frightening and can create massive destruction, they can be tracked in advance, and people can nearly always be evacuated before the damage is done. Though there will be major inconveniences, quick evacuations will ensure that injuries and loss of life will stay at minimal levels. To counter this assertion, some might bring up the Paradise fire to which swept through this California town so quickly that some residents were unable to get out in time, but this is an aberration. Nearly all fires are slow enough in burning to allow ample time for warnings. In addition, newly elected governor Gavin Newsom is planning for more high-tech solutions to identify and combat fires before they get near the public habitation (Daniels). Earthquakes do not give advanced warnings however, and UC Riverside is sitting near a major fault line. When looking at the possibilities of one of these two striking our campus, an earthquake seems more likely and potentially far more damaging to personal life and property. Disasters are a fact of life, and we cannot spend every waking moment worrying about them. It is, however, prudent to occasionally take stock of the possible devastations that natural disasters can cause. Even though a major fault line runs only five miles from our campus, UC Riverside students are nonetheless more fortunate than many others in Southern California, should an 8.2 magnitude earthquake hit the area. We have safe buildings, potable water and a visible institution with thousands of students and employees who will probably get the attention of first responders. And though it is disturbing to read the words of our own professor Abhijit Ghosh, who says a damaging earthquake might be imminent. Most of us will continue with our studies still largely oblivious to any potential earthquake disasters. In the meantime, engineers are busy working on retrofitting UC Riverside’s buildings, just in case the big one ever hits. Works Cited “Customer Service.” Riverside, California | City of Arts & Innovation | Graffiti, 2013, Daniels, Jeff. "California hopes to get the jump on fires by expanding its high-tech early warning camera system." CNBC. 16 Nov. 2018. CNBC. 20 Jan. 2019 . Hong, Joseph. "Pepperdine University responds to criticism regarding 'shelter in-place' policy." Desert Sun. 13 Nov. 2018. The Desert Sun. 18 Jan. 2019 . Hutcheson, Susannah. "How Texas universities are coping with Harvey." USA Today. 29 Aug. 2017. Gannett Satellite Information Network. 20 Jan. 2019 . Lin, Rong-Gong ll. “California Could Be Hit by an 8.2 Mega-Earthquake, and It Would Be Catastrophic.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 19 Sept. 2017, Nightingale, Sarah. "Earthquake Risk Elevated with Detection of Spontaneous Tectonic Tremor in Anza Gap." UCR Today. 25 Oct. 2017. UCR Today. 21 Jan. 2019 . Ramirez, Anthony. "The Earthquake: Phones and Power; Gas and Electric Services are Disrupted for Millions of Customers." The New York Times. 18 Jan. 1994. 17 Jan. 2019 . “Request for Qualifications For Seismic Safety Audit.”, 22 Aug. 2018, Saringo-Rodriquez, John. "20 years after Northridge earthquake, CSUN is 'not just back, better'." The Sundial. 23 Jan. 2014. 21 Jan. 2019 . Toppo, Greg. "'We Will Survive -- Absolutely, We Will Survive'." Inside Higher Ed. 6 Dec. 2018. Inside Higher Ed. 16 Jan. 2019 .

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