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The 'Big One,' Now Scripted

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Jan. 17, 1994: the covered body of Los Angeles motorcycle officer Clarence W. Dean lays near his motorcycle which plunged off Highway 14 overpass that collapsed onto Interstate 5 (AP Photo/Doug Pizac)

Hollywood studios are not the ones behind the latest script detailing a massive future earthquake hitting Los Angeles. This time, it's scientists and other quake experts... over 300 of them. Specifically, the U.S. Geological Survey and California Geological Survey have collaborated to write a script, to be released tomorrow to a House subcommittee, "detailing the devastation California would likely face if it were rocked by a monstrous 7.8-magnitude earthquake," according to the Associated Press. The plausible three-minute shaker will play out with results like this:

Water and sewer pipes crack. Power fails. Part of major highways break. Some high-rise steel frame buildings and older concrete and brick structures collapse. Hospitals are swamped with 50,000 injured as all of Southern California reels from a blow on par with the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina: $200 billion in damage to the economy, and 1,800 dead.

Only about 700 of those people are victims of building collapses. Many others are lost to the 1,600 fires burning across the region — too many for firefighters to tackle at once.

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Last month, the USGS said a 6.7 or higher magnitude quake was likely to strike California in the next 30 years. Where within is unknown, but Southern California was said to have higher chances than elsewhere.

So what do to? The full report and script will be released tomorrow morning via the USGS's website. On June 4th, multimedia examples and further details will be released on The Great Southern California Shakeout's website (an upcoming effort to prepare residents so disasters do not become catastrophes -- think Katrina). In the meantime, visit Dare to Prepare, one of the best earthquake preparedness sites specific to Southern California.