Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake hits Wash DC area; talking about natural disaster risk:

A 5.8 earthquake hit the Washington (DC) area, centered about 50 miles southwest but felt as far south as North Carolina and as far north as Boston. No serious damage appears to have been done.

Normally we wouldn’t remark on this, but as it happens, just yesterday we were talking with a Seattle-area person with direct interest in where Boeing builds assembly sites. We naturally talked about Boeing’s 787 site in Charleston (SC) and the bombshell dropped by CEO Jim McNerney that Renton (WA) can’t assume it will be where the 737RE will be built (we can’t yet bring ourselves to call this thing the NE737). Among the considerations is natural disaster risk.

The Seattle area has a lot of earthquake fault lines and the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, so-called because that’s where it was centered at the south end of Puget Sound, caused damage at Renton and some Boeing buildings were red-tagged.

Diversifying the assembly sites has merit, though choosing Charleston (or North Carolina or Alabama), in a hurricane zone, doesn’t seem to make much sense, either. Hurricane Hugo in 1989 made landfall at Charleston and caused billions of dollars of damage and some interesting photos.

The person we were talking to remarked that the New York Times a few months back published maps of the highest and least risk areas in the US. As it turns out, all things considered, the Seattle area is one of the lowest risk in the Us (though high for earthquake potential) and the entire East Coast–including Charleston–rates higher in the risk factor than does Washington State.

Of particular note, the NYT map shows Charleston in the same color of high risk for earthquakes at Seattle.

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