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After the Earth QuakesElastic Rebound on an Urban Planet$
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Susan Elizabeth Hough and Roger G. Bilham

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195179132

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195179132.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 26 October 2021

City of Angels or Edge City?

City of Angels or Edge City?

(p.226) 11 City of Angels or Edge City?
After the Earth Quakes

Susan Elizabeth Hough

Roger G. Bilham

Oxford University Press

Although this book focuses on societal response to earthquake disasters, many common threads can be found in societal response to other types of disasters. Some regions seem especially prone to disasters of all shapes and sizes, perhaps none more so than southern California, which can be star-studded and star-crossed in equal measure. This chapter steps away from the specific responses of societies to one type of disaster to instead consider the response of one society to myriad disasters. In southern California, disasters sometimes seem to pile up like, well, cars on a southern California freeway. During one memorably miserable week in October 2003, for example, firestorms laid waste to almost 700,000 acres in the region—2,000 homes, 24 lives, and a staggering $2 billion in property damage. It was a little like an earthquake in slow motion. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake had claimed about three times more lives (63) and total property damage ($6 billion), but the number of homes rendered uninhabitable by that powerful temblor was lower (1,450) than the number destroyed by the firestorms of 2003. That the disaster played out slowly, over the span of several days rather than several tens of seconds, was a curse as well as a blessing. Advance warning kept the death toll from climbing higher; it also generated high anxiety among tens of thousands who would not lose their homes as well as the few thousand who would. Fires are less kind than earthquakes in another critical respect as well: they can reduce an entire house and its contents to ash, whereas much can often be salvaged from even a severely earthquake-ravaged home. Fires can even have their own aftershocks, after a fashion: heavy Christmas Day rains turned parts of two burn areas into torrents of fast-moving debris that swept through two campgrounds and claimed 16 lives, most of them children. Even heavier rains in early 2005 caused a more massive landslide in the coastal community of La Conchita.

Keywords:   auto accidents, bedding planes, catch basins, debris flows, fires, hazard, landsliding, obesity, plate tectonics, rock

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