Earthquake: What We Know Now

There have been a number of frightening programs about earthquakes before and since the 6.8 Northridge shaker in January, and here comes another one, courtesy of KCAL's "Prime 9 News." This one -- informative and serious -- ultimately throws up its hands, as if to say, "There really haven't been any breakthroughs in earthquake research in the last six months, but this is what you can do to ride out the next one.""Earthquake: What We Know Now" will make even the most rabid civic booster wonder whether living in Los Angeles is worth the gamble.

With:
Cast: David Jackson, Robert White Cox, Hank Ellis.

There have been a number of frightening programs about earthquakes before and since the 6.8 Northridge shaker in January, and here comes another one, courtesy of KCAL’s “Prime 9 News.” This one — informative and serious — ultimately throws up its hands, as if to say, “There really haven’t been any breakthroughs in earthquake research in the last six months, but this is what you can do to ride out the next one.””Earthquake: What We Know Now” will make even the most rabid civic booster wonder whether living in Los Angeles is worth the gamble.

The prognosis is basically grim: There will be more major earthquakes in the near future, we seem to be in a very active quake period on the geological timeline, and there won’t be any means of accurately predicting them for the next decade at least.

Producer-writer Lisa Brown reinforces the gloom with faded flashbacks to the big 1933 Long Beach quake and lots of quick jump-cutting between images of the victims, human and structural, of the Northridge quake.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who has been in the media eye frequently in the last few months, reports that there are more than 300 faults in Southern California capable of a magnitude 6 quake, adding ominously, “And those are the ones we know about.”

In fact, none of the “experts” knew that the faults that caused the Northridge and Whittier Narrows quakes even existed.

An amiable Caltech geologist takes viewers on a startling tour of some newly discovered faults right under Hollywood, Century City and MacArthur Park — and there certainly are many more that urbanization has camouflaged. Warnings are repeated about severely cracked steel beams in downtown buildings in the wake of Northridge.

The program explores liquefaction in Redondo Beach, a little-publicized result of the Northridge quake, and tries to give viewers an idea of which areas are most prone.

But one of the maps, that of the San Fernando Valley, is wildly inaccurate in its placement of the area’s communities (for example, Sepulveda is placed east of San Fernando), rendering it useless.

There are many useful hints on surviving a quake at home, in the office or wherever, some of which contradict recommendations made on previous programs. A recommended supply kit flippantly includes a bottle of California champagne to celebrate making it through the quake.

If this unsettling program offers any small comfort, it is that the shaking experienced by Valley residents in the Northridge quake will not be more violent in a bigger quake; it will only go on for a longer period of time.

“We hope you have a quiet night,” the smooth, serious host David Jackson says in signing off.

Sure we will.

Earthquake: What We Know Now

(Fri. (15), 9-10 p.m., KCAL-TV)

Production: Filmed in Southern California by KCAL-TV. Executive producer, Laura Carter; producer-writer, Lisa Brown.

Crew: Editor, Debra Evans-Watts; camera, David Carstens, Webb Webber, Andy Weintraub; design director, Mike Radogna.

Cast: Cast: David Jackson, Robert White Cox, Hank Ellis.

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