News / USA

    California Quake Warning System Delayed by Lack of Funding

    Bricks and fallen rubble cover a car with the old courthouse in the background following an earthquake in Napa, California, Aug. 24, 2014.
    Bricks and fallen rubble cover a car with the old courthouse in the background following an earthquake in Napa, California, Aug. 24, 2014.
    Reuters

    A system to provide early warnings of earthquakes such as the one which shook California's wine country this week is planned and ready to go, but two years after the scientific work finished, the funding is still being lined up.

    California passed a law last year to start the system, but did not appropriate the money needed to build it.

    A system to cover California, Washington and Oregon would cost $38 million, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

    Had money been available two years ago, the system would likely have been finished by Sunday, when the largest earthquake in the region in 25 years injured more than 200 people and damaged buildings around the city of Napa, said Doug Given, earthquake early warning coordinator for the USGS.

    “We don't have the funding to move it forward yet,” he said.

    The technology, which can provide a few seconds to halt a speeding train or stop elevators before seismic waves hit, would not have helped residents near the epicenter, where shaking happened too quickly to warn anyone.

    Similar systems are already in place in Japan and Mexico. When a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, people in Sendai, a city of about one million that was the closest big city to the epicenter, had more than 10 seconds to prepare. But those living in the coastal town of Ishinomaki, nearer to the epicenter in the seabed, had only two seconds' warning before tremors began, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

    Sensors pick up a tremor from shallower and faster-moving waves, known as “P-waves”. A meteorological agency uses that data to estimates the location and intensity of shaking from so-called “S-waves”, which are deeper and cause actual motion on the ground.

    A trial version of the U.S. technology, set up in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, gave researchers, local governments and state emergency services officials 10 seconds warning before the 6.0 magnitude Napa quake hit, enough time to take basic emergency measures had it been strong enough to threaten San Francisco.

    A related system developed by the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory provided a warning to the area's commuter train operator, Bay Area Rapid Transit.

    Japanese System

    Japan began developing an earthquake warning system after the devastating 1995 Kobe temblor, which caused 6,000 deaths and more than 30,000 injuries, and went online in 2004. When sensors pick up a tremor, the public is warned via television and radio stations, as well as by cellphone alerts and through loudspeaker systems.

    In California, the system would piggy-back on an existing network of 400 earthquake monitoring sensors. Scientist envision doubling that to 800 sensors and sending alerts to residents, public utilities and others.

    David Oppenheimer, who directs the Northern California Seismic Network for the USGS, said a few seconds would be enough to open a fire station's doors so rescue engines are not trapped inside should a power outage render them inoperable.

    USGS scientists have been working on a system for western states for years in cooperation with the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, among others.

    A report released by Given's group in May said the $38 million system for California, Washington and Oregon would cost $16 million annually to operate. A California-only system would cost $23 million to build.

    But funding from federal and state sources has been slow.

    California U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein on Monday called for federal funding.

    “An integrated early warning system is essential to save lives and property,” Feinstein said. “What we need is the political resolve to deploy such a system.”

    California state senator Alex Padilla, who represents part of the Los Angeles area hit by the deadly 1994 Northridge earthquake, said scientists complained to him about difficulty obtaining federal funding nearly two years ago.

    Governor Jerry Brown signed a law last year directing state emergency services officials to develop a system for California using outside funding, which Padilla said the state was working to identify.

    “It wasn't my preference but given what the state has been through for the past decade and the impact on the state' budget, a lot of leaders were wary [of using state funds],” Padilla said.  

    You May Like

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora