Between the devil and the deep blue sea

It was in the 90s and sunny all weekend here in Southern California. With the start of the workweek, it's cooled down a bit, to the comfortable 60s and 70s. Still sunny. No rain.

And, oh, yes, there's a 99 percent chance of a major earthquake in the next 30 years. Just that.

I hear Pompeii had good weather, too.

On Monday, a team of seismologists issued the first statewide report on the probability of future earthquakes, and the news, for those who chose to pay attention to it, was pretty terrifying. The chance of a 6.7 magnitude quake striking one of the many active faults in California within the next 30 years is now more than 99 percent.

Which is to say it's a virtual certainty.

And that's not all. There is also at least a 46 percent chance of a much more damaging quake of a magnitude of 7.5 or more, and that would probably be in the southern part of the state, which is, of course, where I happen to live.

It's not that these numbers are particularly new. But it's the first time federal and state scientists have gotten together to do a statewide report, and the calculations for Southern California are more detailed than in prior reports, which makes them slightly more difficult to forget immediately upon reading.

According to David Schwartz, a member of the team that put together the new estimates and an earthquake geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, denial seems to be what we Californians do best. "In our two major metropolitan areas where odds are high that a large quake is coming, people think a lot about quakes whenever even a smaller one shakes ... but 10 days later most folks forget them, and they shouldn't."

But what can you do, other than forget?

There is, of course, the rationalization approach, very popular I have found among native Californians.

You look around the rest of the country and the world, with their hurricanes and tornadoes and ice storms and unremitting heat waves, and compare how often and how many people are injured or killed by that kind of disaster as opposed to ours. Besides, it also rains in all those places and gets very cold in the winter, so we're in better shape, work out more, eat healthier, etc. Doesn't that count for something?

Then there's the Girl/Boy Scout approach, which is really the purpose of these reports. Unlike people in parts of the country where earthquakes are rare, we actually prepare for them in California. We bolt our houses to their foundations, put our skyscrapers on wheels, keep running shoes in our cars and slippers under our beds &

even if, in my experience, when the last big quake struck, I went tearing down the hall barefoot to wake up my kids, leaving the slippers under the bed and ending up with wide-awake children and bleeding feet.

Of course, Mr. Schwartz is right. We should be prepared. We should think about it for more than the 10 days that follow the last quake &

the 10 days when native Californians reassure the newcomers that this too shall pass, the 10 days when we put brackets on the furniture, secure the televisions and check our insurance policies before reverting to our shirt sleeves and convertibles.

But there's another lesson we should learn, the one most of us try to remember every day, and succeed, most of the time, only with great difficulty. It is to be grateful &

to be grateful for every day the sun comes up and the earth doesn't shake and we are lucky and blessed enough to live in a special place. The lesson of the latest report, like so many others we receive each day in both our private and public lives, is to be thankful, to be grateful, to realize that we are, for all the risks and uncertainties we face, indeed, precisely for all of them, truly blessed.

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