If an earthquake has your name on it …

Thumbnail image for san francisco.jpgPhoto by Alain Picard/frontendeveloper.com via Flickr

It sounds like the East Coast came through the quake with most of its people, property and dignity intact. Even so, it’s scary to see normally stationary fixtures start to sway, so I don’t blame people for freaking out.

My colleague Molly Bloom came up with the wording we settled on for Today’s Question: Does the risk of natural disaster shape where you live or travel? I knew it was a good choice because it made me want to answer.

Long ago I took a geology course at the University of Minnesota from a professor who, I distinctly remember, warned us about the danger of traveling to San Francisco. The Big One was coming, he said. If it doesn’t happen today, that only increases its chances of happening tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, then the day after. The professor said that he wouldn’t visit the Bay Area until after the major, killer earthquake that he knew was coming.

Then and there, I resolved to follow his example.

Years later, after a moderate earthquake on the West Coast, I decided to give my old prof a call and invite him to write a commentary about his personal decision not to visit San Francisco until after the next big quake.

“I said what?” he said. “No. I’m sure I never said that. I love San Francisco. I go there all the time.”

But … but … I’ve been avoiding San Francisco for 20 years because you told me to.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I never said that.”

There’s a lesson in here somewhere.

  • Jim Shapiro

    I lived in Central America for many years, and now in Southern California for several.

    I’ve felt or seen the results of quite a few.

    My mom, most of whose siblings moved to California many years ago, said she never would. Because of the proverbial sliding into the sea.

    She will probably be moving near me fairly soon, for better and worse.

    There’s probably a lesson in there someplace too.


  • Jon Gordon

    3.9 quake last night on the Hayward fault, across the Bay from San Francisco. We felt it, as I’m about 10 miles from the epicenter. No big deal obviously, but the Hayward fault IS one to worry about, for sure.

    But I gotta tell ya – it’s not that hard to put fear of “the big one” behind you, because it is so time-uncertain. Contrast that with the multiple and regular summer and winter storms in Minnesota, which always carry the threat of doing you in.

    Having lived in both places, Minnesota actually feels more threatening to me, disaster-wise.

  • Jon Gordon

    Aaaand we just got a little 3.6 aftershock. Or is it just a preview of something bigger???

  • William Rosa

    Another reason to live/stay in MN, no earthquakes or hurricanes to worry about and we are just a state away from a winning NFL team!

  • Connie

    Other than avoiding active severe weather (although I did go to Texas during Ike), I don’t let it bother me. Something will get me eventually.

    On the note of the unreliable narrator, I had been retelling a story from my brother about an incident in Marine boot camp. I thought it was funny, but I don’t think I embellished it. After about 30 years I told my brother that I was still getting mileage from the story. He said he’d never heard this, and that the incident never happened. We should get him together with Eric’s old professor.

  • jon

    Eh, Minnesota has tornado, straight line winds, hail, floods, etc.

    Calli has hurricanes (some times), earthquakes, mud slides, and volcano’s.

    Every one has some crazy disaster looming, learn what the likely ones in your area are, and be prepared for them. Or live life in fear and the terrorists-or mother nature-win.

  • CHS

    Jon Gordon has a good point, I tend to agree. If you look at all of the fatalities from weather and natural disaster causes, big disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes don’t play that large of a role. Lightning, exposure (both heat and cold), flooding, and other less predictable weather issues are the biggest threat, and MN is one of those places in the world that is the focus of these types of events due to the mid-continental location. While a hurricane is quite powerful and scary, you know it’s coming. Updraft started talking about Irene more than a week before it was even a tropical storm….

  • AAG

    I’ve always compared weather disasters among states I want to live in and consistently find that the only good thing about living in MN-we don’t have ’em. Our disaster is tornadoes, but where I live in St. Paul, MN, there hasn’t been one in at least a century I believe, so I’ve always felt it was a safer state than those coastal places with earthquakes and hurricanes. But the older I get, the more winter becomes its own disaster and I’m ready to take on the earthquakes and hurricanes for a little more sunshine.

  • allia

    I lived in California most of my life and I absolutly love it there. The “big one” that’s supposed to come will eventually come and everyone is just going to have to be ready for it. I recently just moved to Minnesota and I have to say, I would rather live through a few earthquakes every so often then dealing with tornados, blizzards, and Ice Storms. I hate Everyone who says Calis going to fall off into the ocean. You are paranoid. One Earthquake isn’t going to do it. Wait a couple thousand years then we’ll talk