See you one local Coronavirus case, raise you one catastrophic San Diego earthquake

The heck with the one case of Coronavirus found in Chula Vista — more on that later, below — flying under the radar this week was news that should shake and quake San Diego County residents just as much, if not more: Seismologists said San Diego could face catastrophic damage from the Rose Canyon fault — thought to be inactive until just 30 years ago.

five-year study by the San Diego Regional Chapter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute released this week focused on the Rose Canyon fault, which runs smack through the city and was believed to be dormant.

Spoiler alert folks, it was not good news.

Once believed to be inactive, the Rose Canyon fault line, which runs through the heart of the city. could result in over 100,000 buildings damaged. Schools and hospitals shut down. Government agencies, police stations, fire departments and military bases operating with minimal functions. An unspecified number of deaths and injuries along with up to $43 billion in economic losses.

The devastating scenario, as reported by The Weather Channel, is detailed in a new study on what would happen if a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit San Diego, a city previously thought to be relatively safe from earthquakes when compared to places like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The five-year study by the San Diego Regional Chapter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute focuses on the Rose Canyon fault, which runs smack through the city and was believed to be dormant until about 30 years ago.

Because of that, much of San Diego’s infrastructure, homes and businesses were not built to withstand the impacts of a major earthquake, the researchers said.

“The Rose Canyon Fault Zone strikes through the heart of the San Diego metropolitan area, presenting a major seismic hazard to the San Diego region, one of the fastest growing population centers in California and home to over 3.3 million residents,” they wrote in an executive summary. “The region’s large population coupled with the poor seismic resistance of its older buildings and infrastructure systems, make San Diego vulnerable to earthquakes.”


The study was released Wednesday at the quadrennial 2020 National Earthquake Conference (#NEC2020), which took place this week in San Diego, concluded today. The conference brought together more than 600 global attendees from across the academic, public, and private sector to examine and share the latest advances in earthquake science, policy initiatives, practice, and engineering.

In the paper’s simulated scenario of a 6.9 magnitude quake, 120,000 of San Diego County’s 700,000 buildings would sustain moderate to severe damage. Half the county’s schools and hospitals would be damaged, and emergency response would be hampered by collapsed buildings and limited services

Landslides and ground sinking would also happen, as well as damage to infrastructure like highways and bridges.

In the paper’s simulated scenario of a 6.9 magnitude quake, 120,000 of San Diego County’s 700,000 buildings would sustain moderate to severe damage. Half the county’s schools and hospitals would be damaged, and emergency response would be hampered by collapsed buildings and limited servicesLandslides and ground sinking would also happen, as well as damage to infrastructure like highways and bridges.

Damage would extend along the fault from La Jolla, past the airport, through downtown, south of the bay and into Tijuana, Mexico.

The study says models show San Diego County facing an 18% probability of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake on a fault either within the county or just offshore in the next 30 years.

“We owe a lot of the beauty of San Diego to the Rose Canyon fault,” Tom Rockwell, a professor of geology at San Diego State University, told the Los Angeles Times.

OK, about that local Coronavirus case

AT&T temporarily closed six retail stores in San Diego after a retail worker tested positive for the Coronavirus, a company spokesman said Thursday.

“A retail store employee in San Diego has received a ‘presumptive’ positive test for COVID-19,” AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook wrote in an email to FOX 5. “The positive test has not yet been confirmed by the CDC. Out of an abundance of caution, yesterday we closed and deep cleaned several stores in the area that this employee or colleagues in close contact to this employee may have visited recently. Those stores will reopen today.”

The positive test for the patient, a female AT&T employee who had recently traveled to Italy, and worked at a store in Chula Vista, prompted the closure, and cleaning of several of six retail stores in Chula Vista, Escondido, San Marcos, Oceanside, National City and Vista, Cook said.

The five other stores were closed and cleaned “out of an abundance of caution,” Cook said.

San Diego County officials advised all involved people to follow the CDC guidance for self-quarantine.

“If you’re sick, stay home,” San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said at a midday news briefing, adding that Eric McDonald — the county medical director of the epidemiology and immunization branch who was scheduled to speak at the news conference — had stayed home after feeling ill.

Scripps Health, which has five hospital locations in San Diego County, announced Thursday it is restricting visitor conditions at its campuses, including turning away visitors with fever or respiratory symptoms and children ages 14 and younger. The restrictions are in effect at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego, Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas and Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla.

In a report from San Diego County health officials updated Friday, a total of 390 people were being monitored for the disease, but 305 of them have completed their monitoring. The remaining 85 are monitoring their health under the supervision of public health officials, Wooten said. She said remote monitoring is being done on several San Diego residents who are on the Grand Princess cruise ship, which was carrying the first person to die of the illness in California and is now being held offshore while passengers and crew are tested.

The county previously had two confirmed cases involving people who were under federal quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar following repatriation flights that arrived from Wuhan, China, on Feb. 5 and Feb. 7. Both of those patients have since been treated and released.

Test results in San Diego County are still pending for five people, including some detainees of Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thirteen patients tested negative in the county, according to the report, for a total of 18 people tested.

Meanwhile, back at the earthquake conference

“This week, hundreds of committed experts came together to learn, collaborate, inspire, and identify ways to meet the challenge of deadly and destructive earthquake risk, said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, President and CEO of the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH) and conference co-organizer. “We shared the latest in physical and social science, emergency management technology and best practices, engineering-informed building code policy, and much more. Thanks to this exchange, new seismic risk solutions are already emerging to help protect people and communities.”

The National Earthquake Conference occurs every four years and is attended by academia, building code experts, engineers, citizens, design/build professionals, earth scientists, engineers, federal, state and local government leaders, local, state and federal emergency managers, geology and seismology experts, first responders, insurance professionals, utilities, hospitals/medical professionals, researchers, businesses, risk communication experts, and private sector interests to share the latest advances, research, information, scientific insights, and technologies.

“Earthquake risk reduction and earthquake resilience, the key themes of this year’s conference, are complex,” said Heidi Tremayne, Executive Director of EERI, conference co-organizer. “And it takes a diverse group of experts from scientists, engineers, policy makers, and emergency managers to create change and learn from each other so we can solve this problem in a wholistic and collaborative way.”

NEC2020

The NEC2020 was organized by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) and the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH). Presenting Partners were FEMA, NEHRP, NIST, and USGS; the Presenting Sponsor was the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). 

The NEC2020 offered attendees a robust conference agenda, including 35 sessions, 8 plenary keynote sessions and panels, 27 concurrent breakout sessions, 9 individual events, two awards ceremonies, a diversity networking event, classroom outreach, a training workshop, student events, a breakfast for young members, and more.

NEC2020 Highlights Include:

  • Release of the updated San Diego Earthquake Scenario (M6.9 earthquake along Rose Canyon fault) a report that examines the impacts of an earthquake intersecting the urban core of San Diego and identifies important steps that could be taken to improve the seismic resilience of the region’s buildings and infrastructure.
  • Three special sessions and 27 poster exhibits featuring the Ridgecrest Earthquake Sequence of July 2019 that shook Southern California, the 2019-2020 Puerto Rico earthquakes, and 47 on other topics
  • The worldwide 17th Annual EERI Seismic Design Competition, where more than 350 competitors from nearly 50 universities tested four-foot-tall model high-rise buildings designed for San Diego on an earthquake simulator. The winning teams were announced on the last day of the conference.
  • Keynote presentation by Dr. Lucy Jones (Founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society)
  • The Quake Cottage, where attendees climbed inside a one-of-a-kind, 8-seat ultimate earthquake simulator to safely experience what it feels like in a major earthquake. Afterward, they learned the latest in safety preparedness in an earthquake learning center.
  • Information regarding the affordability of earthquake insurance from California Earthquake Authority, specifically that the average annual cost for a typical home in San Diego is between $100 and $444. Renters can secure financial protection from CEA for as little as $35 per month.
  • The San Diego Scenario ShakeMap and more on the EERI – San Diego chapter webpage
  • Leading earthquake experts delivered keynote speeches, served as panelists/panel moderators, and ran breakout sessions, including: Dr. Julian J. Bommer (seismic hazard and risk specialist, Imperial College, London); David Bonowitz (structural engineering consultant); Dr. Howard H. Harary (Director of the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, conference honorary chair), Leslie Chapman-Henderson (FLASH President and CEO, conference co-organizer, and building code expert); Dr. Laurie Johnson (Urban Planner and EERI President); David Maurstad (FEMA Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation and chief executive of the National Flood Insurance Program); Dr. Jorge Meneses (Geotechnical engineering expert, EERI San Diego Chapter President); Glenn Pomeroy (California Earthquake Authority CEO); Janiele Maffei (Chief Mitigation Officer, California Earthquake Authority); and Heidi Tremayne (Executive Director of EERI, conference co-organizer).

The NEC2020 pre-conference activities included the National Earthquake Program Managers Annual Meeting, seven EERI committee meetings, pre-conference workshops, and tours, including to the [email protected] Large High-Performance Outdoor Shake Table at the University of California, San Diego and the San Diego Central Library walking tour.

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