Author Claims New York City Overdue For Major Earthquake
When we think of New York City, earthquakes are typically the last thing we consider to be a fear. Unless of course, we are watching or reading the likes of science fiction. But that isn’t to say that we’ve never considered the terrifying idea of such an event. According to author and environmental theorist Kathryn Miles, our seemingly fictional fears might well become reality sooner than we think.
Miles book, Quakeland, is a deep-dive into the future of an earthquake hitting the United States. It examines the preparedness, or lack thereof, or our country. So when will an earthquake hit and how will we handle the event, according to Miles? Not long, not good.
Miles was a guest on the Daily Show where host Trevor Noah asked her several questions regarding her theories.
When asked if and when a major earthquake will hit, Miles said, “We know it will, that’s inevitable, but we don’t know when.” Clearly, this isn’t a groundbreaking answer. I’d surmise that the common person polled from the streets of anywhere, USA would have given a similar response. We know that a major earthquake is coming. It is also competent to suggest we have no idea when that is, seeing that earthquake prediction isn’t full-on science yet. But it was her follow-up responses regarding “where” an earthquake might strike that raised eyebrows.
Miles is warning, or suggesting, that New York is in serious danger of a major earthquake. Even if you aren’t a seismologist, you likely understand that New York isn’t considered to be in a high-risk seismic region. Most of the focus for major earthquakes is restricted to our west coast, with some newly acquired risk percentage points being applied to Oklahoma due to fracking issues.
“New York is 40 years overdue for a significant earthquake…Memphis, Seattle, Washington D.C.—it’s a national problem,” Miles told Noah, who appeared a bit shocked by the suggestion.
Further worsening the idea of a major earthquake striking the heavily populated Northeast (or anywhere) was Mile’s assertion that we just aren’t prepared. Responses to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have been efficient and well-done. But in some ways, U.S. preparedness for hurricanes and tornadoes tend to cover up what Miles claims is a lack of competency in earthquake preparedness. Seeing we’ve not been seriously tested with a domestic earthquake since 1994’s San Fernando Valley earthquake, it isn’t difficult to see how our preparedness might have grown stale. I understand that Oklahoma and Washington state have experienced earthquakes, but in terms of devastating events, it truly has been a long while.
“We’re really bad at the preparedness side,” she went on, “Whether it’s the literal infrastructure, like our roads and bridges, or the metaphoric infrastructure, like forecasting, prediction, early warning systems. Historically, we’ve underfunded those and as a result, we’re way behind even developing nations on those fronts.”
Miles took an opportunity to blame Trump and his administration as well, because, that’s the popular thing to do.
“We can invest in an early warning system. That’s one thing we can definitely do. We can invest in better infrastructures so that when the quake happens, the damage is less.”
I can’t say whether or not Trump’s been irresponsible when it comes to earthquake preparedness focus, but I would ask what dramatic changes he’s or his administration has made since the past two Presidencies?
“The scientists, the emergency managers, they have great plans in place. We have the technology for an early warning system, we have the technology for tsunami monitoring. But we don’t have a president that is currently interested in funding that, and that’s a problem.”
Miles’ initial statements regarding New York being an earthquake target were criticized heavily. She has since released clarification saying that New York is not the likeliest place for an earthquake, only a potential spot.
Could A Major Earthquake Hit New York?
I know, you are now asking the question: How reasonable is such an assertion? Well, let’s just say, New York has a history of seismic activity. While we may think of New York outside the realm of potential earthquake events, science most certainly speaks otherwise. New York has plenty of fault lines. It averages a 5.0 Richter scale event every 100 years. While such size may not sound hideously impending, the fact is, New York doesn’t build structures to support such an event.
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You don’t have to look any further than the 100’s of millions in damage that occurs in Oklahoma on similar sized earthquake events.
A moderate-sized earthquake in New York as the potential to cause $39 billion in damage. Because many infrastructures in New York are supported by brick, they’d be less resistant to potential shaking and many would collapse. Aside from devestated homes and business seeking out insurance claims, you’d also have to account for the financial doom and gloom of cleanup. And then, of course, there is a heavy potential for loss of life which can’t be understated in such an unprepared region.
If you look at a New York City fault line map, you can see zig zag fault lines under the Bronx and Manhattan.
New York City has the secondary issue of underground travel. Many seismologists have long said that metro rails beneath the earth would be a safer place to be. Some of the reason for this rhetoric was to convince Los Angeles residents that subway systems are a good idea and that they shouldn’t fear them for fear of earthquake events. On a personal note, I think I’d prefer not being underground for such an event, but I’m no scientist.
Vince Tirolo, a project manager and tunneling/ geotechnical engineer in NYC, has been warning of dire structural issues under New York City for years.
Prepping For An Earthquake
The first thing you need to realize, no matter where you may reside, is that earthquakes come with the added layer of unpredictability. You aren’t going to get any warning. This means you could be anywhere. I strongly encourage you to make sure you have bug out bag essentials in your home, your car and your place of work. If a major earthquake is to hit, you may need supplies and you may also need to bug out in short order. A post-earthquake world might feature a powerless, lawless society. Be able to feed yourself and family. Have water. Be able to filter water. Have protection. And have shoes (not sandals or heels). Broken glass and debris will inundate all surfaces following the event. Avoid trekking through standing water as collapsed powerlines may cause the water to be “live.” Make sure you are cautious of power lights which may be out. And avoid the coastlines in case of the after effect of tsunamis.
During the event, get under a desk if you can. Protect your head. Don’t run outside, you don’t want to risk glass falling from buildings or powerlines collapsing.
No matter where you live, you should take a small amount of time and get earthquake supplies. It won’t cost you much to be prepared.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.