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Living with Earthquakes in California: A Survivor's Guide, by Robert Yeats

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Living with Earthquakes in California: A Survivor's Guide by Robert Yeats

Living with Earthquakes in California: A Survivor's Guide by Robert Yeats

Oregon State University Press
More a survivor's manual than a guide, "Living with Earthquakes in California" gives California citizens everything they need to take the fruits of science into their personal lives, homes, neighborhoods and the public arena. The non-scientific topics, covering insurance, engineering, history and policy, are uniquely valuable.


Title: Living with Earthquakes in California: A Survivor's Guide
Author: Robert Yeats
Publisher: Oregon State University Press
  • Rock-solid information from a lifelong researcher
  • Personable, accessible prose from a longtime teacher
  • Unique breadth of subject matter going beyond mere science
  • A few details have changed since publication
  • Some interesting figures could be larger
  • Only partially applicable outside California
  • Covers earthquake history, geology, phenomena and preventive measures
  • A scientist's attention to correct detail with a citizen's focus on relevance
  • Enough breadth and local detail for every part of the Golden State

Book Review

Earthquakes are a problem that concerns most of the United States, whether people know it or not. But the details differ, and no reasonable book can address the distinctive needs of Hawaii, Alaska, the Pacific states, the Midwest and the Atlantic states.

The greatest challenge is sprawling California, whose boundaries encompass more than 30 million people and several different geologic regimes. The deadly subduction zone of the northwest, shared with Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, is capable of far larger shocks than anywhere else in the state. The parallel fault strands of the San Francisco Bay area threaten this important region where cities have spread heedless of the hazard, despite the example of 1906. Just inland and down the Coast Range are menacing thrust faults whose cumulative effects have created the area's oil-producing formations. And Southern California, whose fault map resembles the palm of a hand, nervously awaits earthquakes of all sizes both distant and unexpectedly underfoot.

In "Living with Earthquakes in California," Robert Yeats masters the details of these and California's other seismic regions; more than that, he explains how its faults are tied to the very landscape. No generation of Californians has truly understood this relationship until today, after 40 years of plate tectonics and cutting-edge research that has made this state a center of seismic science.

The story of seismology's progress is intimately connected to California's history and government, and Yeats is right to dwell on it. Many different cities, and people whose names live on in their street names and institutions, played roles in this history. The curious result is a sense of regional pride. Without "his majesty the earthquake," in Bailey Willis's phrase, California would not exist in all its geographic variety and economic vitality. And without knowing the human history of earthquakes in California, citizens would stumble over hidden faults underlying today's political landscape.

Living with Earthquakes in California: A Survivor's Guide by Robert Yeats

Living with Earthquakes in California: A Survivor's Guide by Robert Yeats

Oregon State University Press
"Living with Earthquakes in California" is one of many books in its field, but it has unique strengths beyond the usual tectonics, engineering advice and preparedness guidelines. Yeats gives a lucid treatment of earthquake insurance, the development and structure of quake-related government programs, and the long list of shocks, many of them nearly forgotten, since the explorer Gaspar de Portola recorded "a terrible earthquake" at the Santa Ana River on 28 July 1769. Some details have changed since the book's publication, but nothing significant is lost thereby.

Yeats has made it his mission, after writing research papers and textbooks and "Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest," to present the citizens of California with the insight gained in the century since 1906--half of which includes his career. It is a princely gift. For those who believe in putting down roots in the land they inhabit, not just the town, Yeats has written the best survivor's guide I know. This book truly can save your life.

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