October 9, 2009
Earthquake experts to gather at Stanford to mark Loma Prieta’s 20th anniversary, look ahead to next Big One
When it comes to earthquakes in the Bay Area, it's a matter of when – not whether – the next one will strike. With that in mind, Stanford's schools of Earth Sciences and Engineering are sponsoring several talks, along with a question-and-answer session, on Thursday, Oct. 15, two days before the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
The event, "Commemorating Loma Prieta: The Future of Bay Area Earthquakes," will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium. The talks will be targeted to a broad audience, and the event is free and open to the public.
Speakers will discuss what happened during the 1989 earthquake, the likely impact of future Bay Area quakes, progress in earthquake science and engineering research, and how the Bay Area can become more earthquake resilient. Mark Zoback, professor of geophysics and one of the event organizers, said the anniversary offers a good opportunity for a "teaching moment" for earthquake preparedness.
The Loma Prieta earthquake, a 6.9 magnitude temblor, was centered near Santa Cruz but was powerful enough to damage many buildings on Stanford's campus. Memorial Church, the Graduate School of Business building and the West Wing of Green Library are among the facilities that required substantial repair, and by 1999, the university had spent more than $250 million in repairs and retrofitting across campus.
"There are still signs of the earthquake's impact on campus," said Gregory Beroza, professor of geophysics, who also helped organize next week's event. "We live in earthquake country, and it's easy to forget the damage earthquakes can cause because they're fairly infrequent. They happen so suddenly, we must prepare in advance."
Beroza and Zoback will both speak, as will Chris Poland, an authority on earthquake engineering and chief executive officer of Degenkolb Engineers; Harold Schapelhouman, chief of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District; and Mary Lou Zoback, former chief scientist of the U.S. Geological Survey earthquake hazard team, now vice president of earthquake risk applications at Risk Management Solutions.
Oct. 15 is also the day of a statewide earthquake preparedness drill called the "Great ShakeOut." The Stanford Office of Emergency Preparedness will conduct its first fully integrated test of campus emergency notification systems that day. "This will include our newly installed outdoor warning system, our mass notification system and our other communications outlets, including [campus radio station] KZSU, the emergency website and hotlines, and social networking sites" said Keith Perry, the university's emergency manager. At 12:05 p.m., Stanford faculty, staff and students will hear a warning tone from outdoor sirens, followed by a spoken message. They also will receive emails, phone messages and text messages.