Emergency officials prepare for natural disasters on the Central Coast

SALINAS, Calif. - Earthquakes are top of mind for many right now.

In the last month, Mexico has seen three earthquakes stronger than a magnitude 6.0 There have been a few small temblors on the Central Coast that have rattled some nerves. All of that has prompted us to take a look at the risks Monterey County faces.

Scenes of destruction and devastation played out all through Mexico after three major quakes hit this past September. This could one day be California. The state has numerous faults running under our feet. In Monterey County, there are more than a dozen active faults, but the two most concerning to emergency managers are the San Andreas and San Grigorio faults.

Seven years ago emergency managers in the Bay Area, including Monterey County, came up with a worst case scenario if a magnitude 7.9 quake struck the northern section of the San Andreas.

"The radiation of energy from the fault would be significant to all of the areas around it. More significant to people around its direct path but Monterey County being off to the side, would see significant shaking and significant damage. It's estimated that an earthquake of that magnitude would produce half a million pounds of debris that we would have to remove off our roads and other areas just to be able to function,” said Monterey County Office of Emergency Services Manager Gerry Malais.

With the help of the Monterey County Historical Society and the Salinas Californian, we were able to look at how one of California’s most notorious quakes impacted Monterey County.

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake was more than 100 miles away, yet Salinas still saw damage.

Like other parts of the state, Monterey faces similar challenges: transportation, water systems and utility grids susceptible to disruption.

Monterey County is also vulnerable to landslides and liquefaction.

“Our entire Monterey Basin is susceptible to that, as you know we are right near the coast and all the way through Salinas, we have sandy soils that everything is built upon. So we can expect that whatever the magnitude shaking that's done under the Merchalli scale is going to be magnified in those areas,” said Malais.

The county’s emergency services manager was part of the command team for the 1994 Northridge quake, a magnitude 6.7 that erupted in Los Angeles, killing more than 50, causing more than $50 billion in damage.

Watching the coverage of what is happening in Mexico, Malais hopes it will make people realize, it could happen here too.

"It is a real threat, we could have it any day and we are doing our best to try to get people ready for that because everybody says 'it's not if it will happen but when' and nobody has a crystal ball to know "when" that will be but we have to go under the presumption that it could be tomorrow and we're way behind the curve of getting people ready because many people are ready but many people are not,” said Malais.

Getting ready means having enough food, water and supplies to last three to seven days. He also encourages people to sign up for the “Alert Monterey County” notifications, not only to find out about quakes but where to get help if one were to happen.

In the meantime, the county is also planning to update its disaster plans. And hopes to get more residents to volunteer during a major catastrophe like an earthquake.

“The CERT (community emergency response team) volunteers in our area are extremely valuable when a large emergency happens. We used them in the winter storms, and we definitely need to use them in something like an earthquake,” said Malais.

The county services manager said of the 560,000 people who live in Monterey only 18,000 have signed for “Alert Monterey.” To find out how you can sign up, click HERE.

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