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USGS' Seismologist Lucy Jones to Prep L.A. For the 'Big One'

One-fourth of the country's quake risk is in L.A. County, Jones said.

Courtesy of USGS
Courtesy of USGS

By ELIZABETH HSING-HUEI CHOU
City News Service

Seismologist Lucy Jones will devote much her time this year to preparing the city of Los Angeles for its next big earthquake, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes as the city reflects on the aftermath of the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge earthquake on its 20th anniversary.

Friday marks two decades since a magnitude-6.7 earthquake centered in Northridge shook Southern California at 4:31 a.m., resulting in 57 deaths, more than 5,000 injured and more than $20 billion in property damage.

"The truth is, while Northridge was a bad earthquake, the big one could be a lot worse," Garcetti said at an event to discuss Jones' role with the city.

"We've gone 20 years here in Los Angeles since the last big earthquake, and because we haven't had a recent reminder of the power and the damage of earthquakes, too many in our city have stopped thinking about how we can best prepare," he said.

Jones, a familiar figure and go-to expert with the U.S. Geological Survey, has been a visiting researcher at Caltech's Seismological Laboratory since 1983.

She has "educated millions of Californians on what to do after earthquakes, how to prepare for aftershocks, and prepare ahead of time for earthquakes and the 'big one,"' Garcetti said.

Jones will remain a federal government employee, but said the USGS is "donating the majority of her time this year" to working with the city.

"We put 10 million people on top of 100 faults" in Los Angeles County, with the area representing a quarter of the earthquake risk faced in the country, she said.

The disaster-preparedness measures developed in Los Angeles can become a "prototype" used by other cities and regions, she said.

Jones will work with the city through February to prepare a "statement of problems and consequences," then spend the following three months gathering input from the public and consulting with experts.

Jones will complete a draft of recommendations by August, and deliver a refined set of recommendations by the end of the year, Garcetti said.

Councilman Mitch Englander, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee and represents the Northridge area, is also making a special presentation on the 20th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake in City Council.

The council also considered a package aimed at improving earthquake safety, moving to continue discussions on a potential bond program to pay for the retrofitting of quake-vulnerable buildings and the identification of buildings that are especially at risk of collapsing during a major earthquake, including wood-frame "soft-story" residential buildings erected before 1978, "non-ductile" concrete buildings constructed prior to 1976.

Friday's regular City Council meeting has been canceled to enable council members to attend a commemoration ceremony for the earthquake's anniversary, according to Council President Herb Wesson's spokesperson, Ed Johnson.


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