Thursday marks 24 years since the Loma Prieta earthquake struck the Bay Area, killing 63 people, and what sets this anniversary apart from previous ones was that California was planning to build an earthquake early warning system.
Governor Brown signed a bill to create a statewide network of seismic sensors last month. But, no money was allocated and funding must be found.
“$82 million -- more money over the course of five years than we're currently getting,” said Dr. Peggy Hellweg with the Berkeley Seismology Laboratory.
The lab currently has a “demonstration” early warning system that uses existing earthquake sensors. Hellweg says a full scale earthquake system could provide tens of seconds of warning to the public before shaking begins. She says such a system could have provided twenty seconds of warning in the Loma Prieta earthquake.
The system measures the speed and intensity of an initial less damaging wave generated by an earthquake called a “p-wave”. That data can be used to determine the size, speed, and intensity of the potentially much more damaging wave that follows.
“It would save lives, it will save infrastructure, it will save money, it will make our state more resilient I think,” said Hellweg.
Japan has long had such a network of sensors and early warning system which was credited with saving lives after the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Dr. Hellweg says the effort continues to find funding to build California's system which will take about five years to construct.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.