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New Study Reveals San Diego’s Earthquake Danger

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A new study on the dangers of a major earthquake occurring in San Diego uncovers the potentially devastating effects it could have on the city. The San Diego Earthquake Planning Scenario conducted a study on the effects of a 6.9 magnitude earthquake occurring on the Rose Canyon fault zone, which runs through the heart of downtown San Diego. The report found that a similar scenario would cause severe damage to buildings and emergency infrastructure, resulting in “devastating consequences” in the community and local economy.

“Damages will cause business interruptions across most economic sectors, estimated at $5.2 billion dollars in lost income throughout San Diego County,” the report says. “Additionally, the earthquake will damage a large percentage of the housing stock in the San Diego region, further exacerbating housing affordability issues particularly for more vulnerable populations such as low-income residents.”

Through the study’s findings, an earthquake of this size could result in more than $38 billion in damages, with 12,000 buildings suffering moderate to complete damage. 8,000 buildings could be beyond repair, and more than 36,000 households would be displaced. Coastal communities like La Jolla and Silver Strand are completely cut off from utilities and services. These basic necessities could be offline for months before being repaired by emergency services. With a loss of water pressure, any response to fires could be severely impaired.

“Community and economic activity could be disrupted for years until the region’s housing stock, commercial and government facilities, and infrastructure are repaired or replaced,” the report said.

To best prepare for such a scenario, the report recommends that the city of San Diego form a “seismic resilience” group that will be responsible for identifying mitigation actions, priorities, and funding. Emergency response plans should be reviewed and updated, with a focus on increasing response plans and public awareness. For public agencies and utilities, identifying and prioritizing investments into needed upgrades and repairs is crucial.

The study concludes that ideally, San Diego could be completely retrofitted and prepared for a major earthquake by 2050. Unfortunately, experts are unable to tell when the next big quake could occur. All we can do as a city is understand the risks posed by such a disaster, and begin a formation of a seismically resilient San Diego.

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