Public Comment

Should Berkeley be Thinking About an Earthquake?

By Lee Sand Walker
Friday October 12, 2012 - 01:00:00 PM

Richard Schwartz's report on the October 17, 1868 Hayward Fault Quake should be a must-read for everyone living in Berkeley during what seems to be earthquake season. If/when there is another huge quake here, it will be worthwhile to be prepared by joining in the Great Shakeout earthquake drill scheduled for October 18. Last year's drill on October 20 was followed by the two largest quakes of 2011(longer?) to shake Berkeley, as if to suggest that the Hayward fault is under such stress that even our thinking about an earthquake can set it off. Thank God that the 2011 quakes were small enough to be harmless while still releasing at least a little stress off the Hayward fault. 

To me, they felt like possibly the largest quakes here in over 20 years, and there were two more within weeks. Strangely enough, 2011's third largest local quake on the Hayward fault was Nov. 5, hours after a nationally reported Associated Press story about a false earthquake prediction email circulating in Berkeley. If only the candidates would take this as a sign that Berkeley is at such risk that we should have more drills. We could be reminded on the anniversary of EACH of last year's quakes to be prepared for something worse: Keep emergency supplies of water, food etc. as long as the Hayward fault is under such stress. 

We have other reminders. This month there has been a lot of comment about the 1989 Loma Prieta quake at 5:04 pm Friday October 17, just as the As and Giants were about to play in the World Series. If the bay was to be shaken that bad, it seemed like a miracle that almost everyone was off work and home from school when it happened. The other coincidence was that possibly more people/viewers than ever before at the same time were thinking about San Francisco's earthquake history, just before the quake was seen live on national television. If our teams face-off again this year, I hope that more people are thinking of harmless 2011-sized quakes than what happened in 1868. 

I'm still waiting for Shakti Gawain, the author of the book Creative Visualization, to comment on last fall's quake history. Her previous writings would explain why thousands of Berkeley residents thinking about earthquakes at once could have initiated these harmless small quakes that were in the best interest of everyone involved. Our 2011 quakes reduced the stress on the Hayward Fault, if even a tiny bit. There are so many other religious leaders already in Berkeley that can also comment, why the silence? 

Hopefully the city will help remind us not to forget that this is Hayward fault territory as much as it is Bear territory. Besides the 7.1 magnitude Loma Prieta quake on October 17, 1989, at 5:04 p.m., we should also be aware of these Hayward fault quakes:  

October 20, 2011 at 2:41 and 8:16 pm, magnitudes 4.0 and 3.8 

October 21, 1868, at 7:54 am (magnitude unknown, but very destructive) 

November 5, 2011 at 2:52 pm, magnitude 3.2  

There was also an interesting 2.5 magnitude earthquake at 8:40 pm July 4, 2012 that shook the Berkeley Marina as thousands of residents were waiting for our firework display to start, coincidentally following publicity efforts that the July 4 holiday may be the ideal day for a local earthquake drill.