Video story produced by Jon Gonzalez, Greta Fuentes, and Amy Lopez
The 1994 Northridge earthquake devastated much of Southern California, but according to scientists, we should expect much worse. According to College of the Canyons’ Vincent Devlahovich, Geology & Geography Department Chair, the question is not if the “Big One” will come, but when.
The last major earthquake in the southern section [of the San Andreas fault] was the 7.9 Fort Tejon earthquake in 1857, when the area was still sparsely populated, and we are overdue for the “Big One.” “The longer it takes to break, the bigger the earthquake will be… it’s a matter of will it happen today… or happen in twenty years. The [United States Geological Survey] has projected about a 70% chance in the next 20 years.”
“There’s no real way to know when it’s gonna happen; we don’t predict earthquakes, we calculate the re-occurrence percentage, and what are the chances are it’ll happen today… Suppose it was a 7.7. The 1994 Northridge earthquake was 6.7. That would be a 1.0 magnitude difference, and that translates in to about 32x the energy created.” The Northridge earthquake shook for 10-12 seconds, “this will be more like a minute [of shaking].”
Such an earthquake would have a major impact on the Santa Clarita Valley’s power and water supply. “The biggest threat would be the Castaic Dam… holding back millions of gallons of water, and that could fail.”
Devlahovich emphasizes the importance of education to prepare and stay safe in the event of an earthquake. “Know what to do so you don’t have to panic… Panic in a crisis is always the worst.”
“The biggest danger in any building… is stuff hitting your head from above… get under something that protects you from anything falling from above.”
John McElwain, Vice President of Communications at College of the Canyons, admits “there’s no way of knowing where or when an earthquake will hit, or to what degree it will devastate or just slightly bother us.” College of the Canyons has retrofitted existing buildings, and added new buildings under new codes since 1994 to ensure that people will be able to get out of buildings when the shaking stops.
Everybody must be prepared to deal with the immediate crisis during an earthquake. “When an earthquake happens at College of the Canyons, it happens to all of Santa Clarita” and that individuals must step up for the campus to be self-sufficient.”
“You can never know enough, you can never practice enough” to be prepared to ensure the safety of those in the community, and believes “should something occur, [College of the Canyons] will do just fine.”
John Rivera, Steve Riekeberg, and J.T. Atkins contributed to this report