Napa earth­quake has­tens calls for warn­ing sys­tem

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

NAPA, Calif. (AP) — The earth­quake that jolted Cal­i­for­nia’s wine cap­i­tal may have caused at least $1 bil­lion in prop­erty dam­age, but it also added im­pe­tus to the state’s ef­fort to de­velop an early warn­ing sys­tem that might of­fer a few pre­cious seconds for res­i­dents to duck un­der desks, trains to slow down and util­ity lines to be pow­ered down be­fore the seis­mic waves reach them.

Cal­i­for­nia’s se­nior sen­a­tor, Demo­crat Dianne Fe­in­stein, joined a cho­rus of re­newed calls on Mon­day for the quick de­ploy­ment of a quake ac­tiv­ity alert sys­tem such as the ones al­ready in op­er­a­tion in Mex­ico and Ja­pan.

“Of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton and along the West Coast should part­ner with the pri­vate sec­tor to make an in­ter­op­er­a­ble earth­quake early-warn­ing sys­tem a re­al­ity, and we should do so as soon as pos­si­ble be­fore a much larger earth­quake strikes,” Fe­in­stein said.

Such a sys­tem may be closer to re­al­ity than most Cal­i­for­ni­ans re­al­ize, though it’s still years away. A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year or­dered his Of­fice of Emer­gency Ser­vices to de­velop a com­pre­hen­sive statewide sys­tem and by 2016, iden­tify sources of fund­ing for it. An early-warn­ing sys­tem would cost an es­ti­mated $80 mil­lion.

The of­fice’s direc­tor, Mark Ghi­la­ducci said Mon­day that he pic­tures a net­work, fi­nanced with both pri­vate and public money, made up of a gov­ern­ment “back­bone” and sup­ple­mented with data from pri­vate sources in more re­mote ar­eas.

“This is sort of the last mile out of the 20-year ef­fort for sci­en­tists that have been work­ing on this for us to pull it all to­gether,” Ghi­la­ducci said. “Cal­i­for­nia is unique. It is a long, com­pli­cated, highly pop­u­lated state, and we have to have a sys­tem that is 100 per­cent re­li­able so that peo­ple can count on it.”

Richard Allen, direc­tor of the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, Seis­mo­log­i­cal Lab, said his lab re­ceived a 10-sec­ond ad­vance warn­ing of light shak­ing when the seis­mic waves from Sun­day’s quake ar­rived there. Allen is among the re­searchers test­ing the earth­quake warn­ing sys­tem that is not yet avail­able for public use, but is en­vi­sioned as the ba­sis for the state’s sys­tem.

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