In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that slammed Japan on Friday, look for a bumper crop of stories by print and broadcast media this week with a “what if an earthquake happens here” angle, predicts Grumpy Editor.
First out of the chute, warning of problems with earth-shaking ahead, surprisingly comes from the relatively quiet seismic state of Utah rather than earthquake-prone California.
Weber State University geosciences professor Adolph Yonkee tells the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, just north of Salt Lake City, that a maximum quake on the nearby Wasatch fault could come tomorrow or 500 years from now.
The Wasatch fault, on the western edge of Wasatch Mountains, runs about 240 miles from southern Idaho to central Utah.
Problems from a major earthquake in Utah, writes Nancy Van Valkenburg, would be landslides and soil liquefaction, a situation where “soil fails to support solid objects and can become like quicksand, causing surface structures and objects to tilt or sink.”
Valkenburg notes the Utah Geological Survey says that state’s Weber and Davis counties have been hit by five major quakes --- in the past 6,500 years, the last being 500 years ago.
Meanwhile, with California’s San Andreas Fault a “breeding ground” for underground rumblings, expect the bulk of “what if” stories to originate with a California dateline.
One of the first to go airborne in the Golden State is Fox affiliate TV station KTXL, Sacramento. It alerts viewers to "what if the Japan quake hit California instead?"
And with any such story on earthquakes --- which scientists cannot predict the way meteorologists can forecast weather --- look for the dredging up of alarming-to-readers-or viewers terms such as “the big one,” “underground stress building” and “an increased risk of a major temblor.”