Bracing For A Quake

Thursday, March 17, 2011 - 3:00pm

Is the United States prepared for a major earthquake?

The violent movement of the earth along the Japanese coast, the vicious wave that followed and now the fear of a nuclear meltdown have forced many in the U.S. to focus on the possibility of the same type of tragedy here.

"That earthquake is inevitable, speaking as a geologist," says Dr. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Service.

"If the full San Andreas fault ruptured it would probably be over 8 and maybe close to 9," adds Dr. Dimitry Vergun, professor of architecture and building science at the University of Southern California.

One big difference from the situation in Japan is the way the plates will move.

Scientists say the shift here would be sideways.

"We're probably not going to get a high vertical ground acceleration and movement of kind that lifted up the ground and the ocean in Japan," explains Dr. Vergun.

Strict building codes in our country will help to brace against any disaster.

Of course, a major concern is the more than 100 nuclear plants across the country.

Experts say those structures are safe, in part, because of constant upgrades.

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has required a long series of improvements both to that containment as well to our ability to address severe accident sequences, external events like earthquakes and flooding as well as terrorist attacks that make that a very solid and safe design here in the U.S.," says Jeffrey Lyash of Progress Energy.

Scientists say the likelihood of a tsunami of the magnitude of the one in Japan is much lower in the U.S., though one area of major concern continues to be the northern Washington coast.

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