Earthquake Report, March 30-31: Necessary Repairs, Aftershock Therapy, Quake Prep, and Fracking Up


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Brea-Olinda High School Library after Friday's quake

Brea-Olinda High School Library after Friday evening’s quake, but BEFORE Saturday afternoon’s encore.

It’s been over 24 hours now since the 4.4 quake along the ridgeline of the Puente Hills, just barely across the border from Brea into Rowland Heights, that extended the geological struggle three miles northwest to a new battlefront.  While another significant quake could happen at any time — I think that we know that by now, right? — it’s probably a safe time to take stock of where we stand.

Plenty of Property Destruction

The photo above, from the Brea Olinda High School Library, shows us three important things.  (1) A lot of books ended up on the floor.  (2) A lot of books didn’t.  (3) The bookshelves themselves stayed upright.  Transfer that information to people’s homes and you have a pretty good idea of the damage: not highly structural, selective rather than wholesale — but a lot of mess.

In my home, and several others I’ve heard about in the area, it’s primarily glass objects and stone or ceramic art objects that breathed their last this weekend.  Various large windows cracked or shattered, which drives home the financial reality pretty hard.  But the biggest damage that I heard about was in Brea’s high school, so I’d like to start there.  (I presume that Sonora, La Habra, and other nearby high schools had their own serious losses, as did elementary schools and other buildings, but this just happens to be the one that I know about.)

As I’ve noted (with pictures and video) a time or two, my daughter takes part in Brea-Olinda’s “Show Choir.”  (This is the sort of activity featured in television’s Glee, but without some of the more significant tawdriness — or so I hope.)  BOHS won the Western Regional a couple of weeks ago and is taking its #1 national ranking to the “Fame” competition in Chicago in late April — but there is one problem: much of their equipment was broken in the quake.

I’m talking about the risers where they stand, the ladders that they climb, the sets where they cavort, and the big beautiful signs where the names of their two top choirs — the girls-only “Spellbound” and the coed “Masquerade” — are trumpeted out for the judges.

You may have seen, in yesterday’s TV news, video of the production of “Bye Bye Birdie” that was so rudely interrupted by Mother Nature, leading to cancellation (and more lost revenue!) of the final show last night. I’ll repeat some information from my update last night.

This video shows BOHS’s gifted singer and comic actor Daniel Dwyer — who really is going to be a star after he graduates this year — performing the song “Talk to Me” as the earthquake hits.  (It was posted by his sister Julia, herself a recent alumna of BOHS’s Show Choir.)

That’s “AJ the Sound Guy” doing an excellent job of crowd control there at the end.

The production has already withstood the smaller earthquake from one hour earlier without a hiccup, exemplifying the philosophy of “the show must go on!” As you can see, though, sometimes the show must not go on, although Dwyer gamely stayed on stage for several seconds after the quake started, until it became clear from the continued rolling that it was curtains for the performance.

For those who don’t want to hear his brilliant singing on the video, this still offers a sense of (among other things) their set design.  (My daughter is one of those up on the rafters — which I understand have now lost their rafterhood.)

Bye Bye Birdie productions

They were spreading some sunshine all over the place — but will they still be able to put on a happy face?

As you can see from its size, at a time when arts education is suffering nationally, the United Choirs of Brea is sort of a big deal.

Brea Show Choir 2012-2013 farewell performance

Last year’s Brea Show Choirs in their May 2013 farewell performance. Choir Director Dave Willert, at left, conducts their swan song. Prior to the earthquake, this year’s group had been among the top favorites to bow out in two months as national champions.

The plan has literally been for one of the parents in the group to drive all of the Choirs’ sets to Chicago — most importantly their huge signs — for the national championship.  Now, unless money turns up pretty quickly, important sets and props may not be able to be replaced in time.  So if you’re some business or philanthropist in Orange County who has been looking for a good opportunity to look good — this is a great chance to do so!  Even if you’re not, check out the entertaining and informative Brea Choir Booster Club website for more fun!

Commenters are welcome to post their own stories of similar needs below.

I am TIRED of all these monster-fracking earthquakes on this monster-fracking plain!

As the aftershocks have gone on and on and ON, particularly through last night, the main destruction here in the frozen north seems to have been of people’s nerves and their patience.  I’ll give you some choice examples.

One nearby Facebook friend writes (and I’ll reword a bit to protect privacy):

Two more solid aftershocks tonight. After at least 25 serious jolts in the last 25 hours, I’m feeling a bit of adrenaline exhaustion. Usually quakes don’t bother me much, but this series is too close to home. I’m not a fracking conspiracy person, but it disturbs me that these seem to be on a previously undiscovered fault, and many are MUCH more shallow than normal.

Now makes 10 solid aftershocks in about 3.5 hours tonight after a quiet afternoon. Strong enough (each time) to jump out of my chair and head for the door. This last one sent me out the back door. I’ve lived in earthquake country almost my entire life and NEVER experienced anything like this. I cannot understand how those of you 5 or 10 miles away (and LA TV news) aren’t feeling any of these. Crazy. If I wasn’t experiencing it myself, it would sound utterly ridiculous.

(We’ll return to the subject of fracking below.)  There was a chorus of agreement that, this time, it has been different.  Remember, the epicenter here is midway between the Whittier Narrows (site of a major 1987 quake) and Chino Hills (site of the most recent large quake affecting OC, in 2008).   We’re used to aftershocks.  Just not like this!

It is ridiculous, I’ve had enough already!

Exactly… it is so different from any of all the other earthquakes I’ve ever experienced. I’m just praying they stay so called “small”. It is so nerve wracking!!!

Nerve wracking.  This seems like a high concentration of aftershocks.

In 35 years I’ve never experienced it like this!!

In 1987 wasn’t far. I remember a few aftershocks over the next few days and weeks. I know people who lived near Northridge — that one was stronger in magnitude. But I never heard about so many solid aftershocks.

Tired of this? YES! Feeling frayed nerves? YES! Exhausted after regular adrenaline rush/heart rate increases? YES!  Our town has felt like a war zone for the last 26 hours. I’m ready to return to the quiet place that nobody has heard of.

When you start rearranging your chores to be ones that will be the safest in event of another quake — as I did when I decided not to work on a task near a large window — you have lost the sang-froid (cool blood) that marks coastal Californians.  As with many others out here, that’s a new feeling for me!  It’s not the 5.1 itself so much as all of what’s come since!

It’s a good time to talk about earthquake safety!

Does Mother Nature have your attention yet?  Great!  Here, let ABC News scare the bodily fluids out of you with this simulation of a 7.8 quake taking place on the San Andreas Fault near the Salton Sea.

Wheeee!  It’s important to know that these similations are exaggerated 1000 times, so that it won’t actually look like someone has taken the ground and shoot it out like a freshly laundered bedsheet.  But 1000 times less is still huge.  Here, let’s see what a Salton Sea quake would look like from Buena Park, looking eastward.

Not as pleasant as you thought it would, is it?

This, by the way, is why the “it’s good that we’re having small quakes so that we won’t have a big quake” argument misses the point.  The big one can happen quite a distance away and still rock our corner of the world.

So — is fracking to blame?

Just a reminder that Irvine Valkyrie’s post on “A Fracking Earthquake in California?” came about two days before Friday night’s trio of larger quakes.  So the question was certainly in the air.  But is this good evidence in favor of fracking being a factor?  To answer that question, a friend points me to a piece by Brandon Ferguson in the Weekly last August 29, “Fracking on the Fringes of Orange County, With Little Oversight,” that surely deserves another look today.  I won’t summarize it — it’s really worth your reading in full — but I will port over one graphic.

The graphic allows one to answer the question: if you did think that fracking causes earthquakes, what’s the area of Orange County that you would suspect to be most likely to be the epicenter of a significant earthquake in the wake of ramping up the use of fracking here?

Here’s the screenshot that Brandon took from the State Water Resources Control Board website, in which the gray boxes showing wells that have used fracking (as opposed to other forms of extraction.)

OC fracking & quakes map

So the fracked wells are right between the two major epicenters, themselves three miles apart? Well, THAT’S a little disturbing!

This isn’t shocking: if you were looking for seismic activity in Orange County, right near one of the foothills would be a good place to look, right?  Because — there are foothills there, raised up by previous quakes!  But these two quakes are not only localized in space, within a three-mile distance by air,  but also localized in timenot long after fracking was introduced to Orange County.

That’s disturbing.  It’s not definitive, but it’s definitely disturbing.  If you were to predict where in Orange County two 4 to 5 magnitude earthquakes would occur less than three miles 18 hours apart, could you have come up with a more damaging prediction for fracking that “they’ll be about 1.5 miles perpendicular to the line formed by where fracking was used was used in wells — and about half a year after the use of fracking in those wells — the only wells using fracking in Orange County — came to light?”  That’s about the most damning prediction that one could see come true, isn’t it?

And that’s exactly what has happened.  Not to be conspiratorial myself, but: is Mother Nature trying to tell us something?


About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.