Last week, powerful Mojave Desert earthquakes rocked California. The tremors ended a years-long lull in major seismic activity—and raised new interest in an early warning system for the West Coast.
The ShakeAlert system is built chiefly in California and is about 55% complete. Pilot programs involving select users have been underway for several years.
It doesn’t perfectly predict earthquakes—something only God can do. (Acts 1:7) Rather, it detects that a quake is occurring. From there, it calculates expected intensity levels and sends alerts. Those warnings could range from several seconds to about a minute before shaking hits locations away from the earthquake’s center.
Depending on the distance, that could be enough time to slow trains, stop machines, start generators, pull a surgical knife away from a patient, or tell students to “drop, cover, and hold.”
The U.S. Geological Survey hopes to send cellphone signals to everyone in reach of cell towers in areas where damaging shaking is expected.
Currently, mass public notification is possible only through a mobile app developed for Los Angeles. That system functions only in LA County.
In the Mojave Desert on Monday, rattled residents are cleaning up. And officials are assessing damage in the aftermath of Thursday’s magnitude 6.4 earthquake and Friday’s magnitude 7.1 quake centered near Ridgecrest.
It could be several more days before water service is restored to the small town of Trona, where officials trucked in portable toilets and showers, says San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert. Teams will need several more days to finish assessments in nearby Ridgecrest, according to Kern County spokeswoman Megan Person.
“You can’t feel every single one, but you can feel a lot of them,” she says. “Those poor people have been dealing with shaking ground non-stop since Thursday.”
(A visitor takes a photo of a crack on the ground following recent quakes that struck near Ridgecrest, California. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)