Dr. Lucy Jones briefs SSUSD

Dr. Lucy Jones briefs SSUSDBy BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

Popular seismologist and science communicator Dr. Lucy Jones made a surprise local appearance when she videoconferenced in during Sierra Sands Unified School District’s all-hands meeting Monday morning at the Kerr McGee Center.

Jones patiently stood by in her Los Angeles hotel while district staff worked out technical kinks so that she could brief employees on earthquake impacts and what we can expect in the near future regarding seismic activity.

According to Jones, the Ridgecrest earthquake sequence, which was kicked off by 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes in early July, is decaying more quickly that most and should subside within two to three years. Some sequences have lasted as long as 40 years.

Jones said that during an earthquake sequence, an area will experience thousands of aftershocks, most of them being very small. “But somewhere six months from now, another Magnitude 5 quake would be possible,” she said.

She said that after the Magnitude 6 earthquake, over the next several years we can expect 10 Magnitude 5 quakes, 100 Magnitude 4, 1,000 Magnitude 3, etc.

“But one of the problems is re-triggering the PTSD,” said Jones. “Kids were terrified when aftershocks came through because they couldn’t separate what they know about earthquakes from what they were feeling.”

In the event of an earthquake during school, Jones suggested, teachers could have their students count how many seconds the quakes last to try and determine the magnitude.

“You’re probably going to feel some aftershocks as you’re teaching in the next few months, and it gives them something to think about instead of being scared,” she said.

She said the U.S. Geological Survey and California Integrated Seismic Network offer good online information regarding earthquakes. She also counseled keeping wary of media discussions regarding the quakes.

“Many discussions of earthquakes are not based on science,” she said. “We don’t know anything about the timing of earthquakes in a human time span, but I can tell you a lot about earthquakes over the next 100,000 years.

“Human beings don’t like that. We have a strong, deep, instinctual need to find patterns — so we form them even when they’re not there.”

She said one popular rumor is that the Garlock fault is poised for an even bigger earthquake than the ones experienced during July.

But she said the chance of a larger quake is “extremely, extremely low.”

She did assure district staff that California public school buildings are some of the strongest in the state. Jones said the Field Act requires the constant presence of a building inspector during the construction process of any public school.

“It makes it a little more expensive, but you don’t have cut corners,” said Jones. “It’s one of the most important pieces of seismic legislation.”

Story First Published: 2019-08-16