Which major US city is the next to die?

I’ve always been an amateur geology buff, and I’ve read about the most vulnerable areas of the the United States for years. The following list is entirely subjective, in no particular order, and does not take terrorism into account. If it did, a nuke/bioweapon/whatever smuggled into New York or Los Angeles harbor would become the instant #1.

#1: Everything from Memphis, Tennessee to Saint Louis, Missouri. These cities sit on top of the New Madrid fault, which, in 1811, produced a quake strong enough to ring church bells in Boston (!!!). Estimates of its magnitude range from 8.0 on up to 9+. Damage will be massively increased by the water saturated ground (which will undergo liquifaction) and the fact that this region has almost no quake-proofing in its buildings. Only the fact that almost no one lived there at the time prevented this from being the worst disaster in US history. As it was, several very small towns were completely engulfed by liquid earth.

#2: Seattle, Washington and its southeastern suburbs. All kinds of fun are possible here. There’s a major subduction zone off the coast capable of producing enormous tsunamis, as evidenced by dead forests and meters-thick mud deposits. Mt. Ranier, to the southeast, has been dismantling itself via explosive eruptions for tens of thousands of years now, producing lahars that underlie many current bedroom communities.

#3: The Oakland to San Jose corridor. The Hayward fault, a little known but powerful quake-maker, runs under the densely populated East Bay, most of which is built on loosely consolidated soils prone to liquifaction. Quake building codes are good here, but the proximity of the fault would create enormous ground shaking that would test the strongest of structures.

#4: The Los Angeles metro area, of course. The last major quake along the infamous southern stretch of the San Andreas was in 1859, the huge 8.0 to 8.5 Tejon rupture. As much as 250 miles of the fault let go at the same time, with ground displacements of 30 feet or more. The average span between quakes of this magnitude is 150 to 200 years. You do the math. I currently live in the area, but not for long. My wife and I are moving to the far more stable region just north of San Diego in a matter of months. The fact that the “Big One” could fire before I get out of here terrifies me as much as living in New Orleans in the late 80’s during hurricane season did.

Who’d like to add to this list?

Quick, someone dig up some catastrophe for the region just north of San Diego!

I don’t see terrorist nuclear detonation on that list…

Try reading the intro again, Jason.

Cleveland, Ohio: Someone will eventually set the river on fire again, only this time it’ll completely burn down the town due to all the closed down river-side nightclubs preventing fire crews from getting to the scene.

Well, that Wyoming megavolcano letting loose would kill half the country. Does that count?

I intentionally omitted the Yellowstone and Long Valley calderas from my list because they would be global catastrophes. Depending on the size of the eruption, they could cause prolonged nuclear winter and mass starvation across much of the planet. They’re fascinating, and we could easily add “planet/species killers” to this discussion, but they didn’t really fit the thread title.

Yet another reason why Hastert is such a jackass. Most of cities are vulnerable in a variety of ways. Large concentrations of humans are always targets for disaster. Yes, some more than others, but it’s the human condition.

Way ahead of me. I’ve got nothing. :)

Wyoming megavolcano? Uh, link plz?

Global catastrophes are fun. That’s why I like this site:


Here’s the USGS link. A touch technical, but all facts guaranteed: http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/Yellowstone/description_yellowstone.html


Can we take a poll? I vote for Los Angeles.

Here’s the USGS link. A touch technical, but all facts guaranteed: http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/Yellowstone/description_yellowstone.html[/quote]

The key thing to note there is that it erupts every 600,000 to 800,000 years, and the last eruption was 600,000 years ago.


Also, from the estimates I’ve seen of its effects, basically 60% of the country west of the Mississipi becomes instantly uninhabitable (and uninhabited), and conditions in the other 40% would make NOLA look like a dream vacation.

Wow. I thought Cleveland was already destroyed[/RIMSHOT]

I vote for Seattle, 'cause then we’ll finally be a world-class city.

If Seattle dissapears, it just means Redmond will dominate the area that much sooner. :)

Umm, look here:

The New Madrid Fault line lies about 175 miles south of St. Louis. An 8.5 at New Madrid would cause a lot of damage in St. Louis, but the distance would mute the effect. And St. Louis does have earthquake aware buildings and building codes. Can’t speak to the other stuff on your list, and I don’t want to minimize New Madrid, but the earthquake risk in St. Louis is notably less than in San Fran or L.A., which basically sit on top of fault lines.

What about that megatsunami that hits the East Coast every few hundred thousands years or so?