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The Shifting Hayward Fault or Our Worst Natural Disaster Coming Real Soon!

Jan 16, 2008
The first few days after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, Santa Cruz was landlocked. Highway 1 was closed in both directions as were Highways 17 and 9. Highway 9 was the first to open and that's what I used to get to San Jose and the Bay Area. It took several extra hours so I also spent the night in hotels. But the phones eventually worked and the power was fine and business continued if not somewhat altered. Altered is an understatement; after a major earthquake, nothing is the same.

The Loma Prieta quake was limited in scope even though it measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. Many of the hardest hit areas were in the unpopulated mountains. But who can forget the scenes of the collapsed 880 freeway at Oakland?

The Hayward Fault is a different fault and runs directly under Highway 880 in the East San Francisco Bay. What is important to remember is Highway 880 runs along the Bay and Highway 680 runs along the foothills. 880 and 680 are the only north south freeways in the East Bay. That's it, folks. Although all communities are now planned, none seemed to plan for the Big One on the Hayward Fault.

If a major quake hits the Hayward fault, it will most certainly disable Highway 880, the main artery of the east bay. If in fact damage occurs also on Highway 680, there will be no north-south traffic. Millions of people will be stranded in their own shaking neighborhoods.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has showed that the economic loss from a 6.9 Hayward Fault shaker would be greater than that of Hurricane Katrina. An estimated 87,000 employers and one and a half million jobs will be directly at risk. Something around $100 billion dollars in wages. That's almost a fifth more than the total damages of Hurricane Katrina. Hard to believe such a small area carries such a major economic clout.

The economics are there because the East Bay is filled with technology and related companies. Many of the jobs are highly skilled and well paying. There are many bigger companies that could withstand some damage but many smaller companies running on tight budgets would simply go bankrupt. The bigger picture problem is many of these smaller companies are the most innovative in the U.S. although they often run on a day to day cash flow.

The actual figures on the fault are alarming. Since 1315 it has had a major quake every 140 years and it's been 139 years since the last big one. Statistically, it's due. With each passing year the odds increase. It's not a matter of if, but when.

The economic multiplier and waves of negative economic impact will spread afterward just as we locals saw after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Many regional service and small manufacturing companies will see their revenues drop drastically as wave after wave of economic impact hit in the post-earthquake region. In the after effects of the Loma Prieta quake, we could see three month interval negative economic waves hit, usually with a string of corresponding failures and bankruptcies.

Today's managers know the fault will one day slip and the ground will turn liquid and violent. But it doesn't appear that there is an exodus out or alternative planning. Yet. That will of course change with a significant shift on the Hayward fault.

Let's hope for the best and pull for the home team on this one because even if you don't live in California this one will affect you. We can hope that maybe instead of the Big One it will be a series of smaller ones that will gradually relieve the pressure on the Earth's continental plates.

But don't count on it. The only certainty is that the ground will eventually move...
About the Author
Jack Deal is the owner of Deal Business Consulting in Santa Cruz,California. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com/blog and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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